Managing Partner at Smart Living Projects,
LLC (Part of Worldsensing Group)
Schools and companies now face a new challenge as new variants of COVID-19 spread around the world. Despite the efforts, the best expectations are that by December 2021, trials for the childhood vaccine could be completed. Even assuming the possibility that this date is not delayed, the process of approval, manufacture and distribution of the vaccine, at a time when pharmaceutical companies are still overwhelmed with adult vaccine manufacturing capacity, may take several months.
Last year's school closures had a highly negative impact on students, which is compounded by the dissatisfaction of the family environment and a problem in the economy when parents cannot go to work because their child is at home.
The situation is likely to cause, at the very least, a risky first semester for schooling. Therefore, it is extremely important to find a solution that guarantees parents and students a safe return to the classroom in order to successfully complete the child vaccination process. And to give peace of mind that, even if the vaccine takes more or less months to arrive, the authorities have a plan in place to solve the problem.
The solution is already tested and working successfully in Puerto Rico, USA. Having the APIs available and the technology ready, implementation is easy.
We have written this article, based on our experience over the past year in Puerto Rico's private schools. With more than 10,000 children using SafeTrac, we have kept schools open and prevented outbreaks on school campuses.
Our proposal is a comprehensive one, which, in harmony with the systems already developed by local governments, could strengthen and expand COVID-19 monitoring and tracking services and plans, especially for children, employees and family members of the public and private education system in any country
.Finally, SafeTrac is not only a solution for covid-19, it is a scalable and reusable technology for other healthcare incidents.
The help that the Puerto Rico Department of Health's computer system, the BioPortal, has contributed to the control of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country is unquestionable. With SafeTrac, we provide a tool that not only adds value to the BioPortal but also provides new instruments to improve its effectiveness.
Recently, we had a case that can exemplify SafeTrac's contribution to the system.
We had a member of the teaching staff of a private school, whom we will call "Subject A", who came out as a "person at risk" within the SafeTrac system because her partner had tested positive for Covid-19. According to our system, in a matter of seconds, we were aware that this person had been in contact with 24 people at the school in the past few days. When we contacted this person, she initially denied* that this could be possible since she was not teaching on-site classes.
In these cases, the system is irrefutable. An investigation was initiated by contacting all possible contacts. Andindeed, they had all been in some way in close contact. “Subject A" had gone to the center to do somepaperwork. With some of the people she had greeted, perhaps briefly but sufficiently, with others she hadcoincided in the same room at a short distance... this person finally recognized all of these contacts. Sheexcused herself with phrases like "it was just for a moment", "I didn't remember talking to her, but now that youmention it...", "it's possible we were close, but I didn't remember". Her intention in the first call was notmalicious, it is often a normal reaction, but it was indeed oblique information and if we had been satisfied withthat information we would never have known the real traceability of all contacts.
The process of tracking through telephone interviews would not only have given us cross-sectional information. It would also have delayed us in time, a time in which that person could have spread the disease to other people. It is possible that many people who were in contact with "Subject A" would not have known they were at risk if it had not been for the immediate warning they received from the SafeTrac system.
When a person has been in contact with a possible positive, they automatically receive a warning on their cellphone with a risk level alert (High, Medium or Low), asking them to stay at home and follow the established protocols. This happens in a matter of seconds. Similarly, everyone you have been in contact with receives the alert. The telephone interview process should not be left undone, its importance is vital, however, it takes time. Time in which those people could have already left and contacted other people. Speed of reaction is key.
Knowing that her partner had tested positive, Subject A was tested, but a few days after Subject A knew she was at risk. She knew she was at risk the week before. Even so, without waiting for the result, she went to the vaccination centre the following Monday where she was pre-scheduled by her school. At the centre, she was in contact with several people. The following Tuesday she received confirmation of her positive Covid-19 diagnosis.
This person should have stayed home out of responsibility. We assume that her haste to obtain the vaccine led her to take the risk. However, it led her to put others at risk. With the information in the SafeTrac system, the vaccination centre itself should have cancelled the subject's visit. Perhaps even the school itself. In this case, we are talking about a private centre and we can simply recommend and not impose. However, we understand that if the system is under the control of the Health Department, it can impose restrictions and obligations.
The Puerto Rico BioPortal does not provide daily information on the health status of each student. It incorporates the data of who is in each school etc., and in case of a positive can trigger the system of calls and interviews. However, it will be more difficult to detect a student with symptoms through this system. And we are not only talking about students but also any citizen. SafeTrac provides a tool that helps to improve this aspect of the BioPortal.
When using SafeTrac, all students (or their guardians in the case of minors) and employees must do a daily "health check" through the APP before going to school. If they have not done so, they will receive a warning before entering and may be denied access if they do not do so. This process is vital for pandemic control. The data is quickly integrated into the system giving real-time information on the status of each child or teacher. The Safetrac App provides an easy visual display to show at the school entrance letting the school representatives know if the users have fulfilled the Health Check and if there are any symptoms present. (QR Code or a GREEN / YELLOW light)
All subjects are part of different bubbles, one may be the educational centre, but in the case of the student, another is the family itself, or the centre where he/she does an extracurricular activity. At the same time, their families and friends belong to other bubbles, work centres, social groups…
When we manage to extend SafeTrac to the entire population, wewill not only monitor a student at possible risk within the bubbleof his educational centre, but we will also be able to know that heor she is a person at risk because they have been in contact witha possible positive person from another bubble before he or shearrives at the educational centre, so that we can stop the spreadearlier.
If we return to "Subject A", in this case the school decided to extend the system not only to students and teachers but also to the co-inhabitants of the same home. If this had not been the case, we would not have detected "Subject A" as a risk person in time.
That is why in SafeTrac we have control dashboards for different control centres; Health Department, schools, universities, companies... so that we have the maximum information in real-time and so we can put more tools to curb the spread.
The best evidence of Safetrac's success in Puerto Rico is our users. All the schools that used the system last school year have reapplied for this new school year, which begins in August. More and more schools continue to join and parents are asking their schools to continue with the system because they feel that their children are safe and protected.