As schools, colleges and universities navigate the new school year, teachers and administrators will be serving on the front lines of public health efforts to keep kids and communities safe from COVID-19 outbreaks. To do that, educators will need to do two things that public health officials struggle to do even when working with adults: ensure that social distancing is maintained and conduct effective contact tracing as suspected/confirmed cases arise.
Those tasks are difficult enough with adults but are even more challenging with young people for reasons that everyone who spends time with children knows: kids are always in motion and have a hard time not entering other people’s personal space. In fact, that’s a big part of what makes kids kids: they zoom around like hummingbirds; and while zooming around, they constantly form and re-form groups with other kids, all clumped together. It’s what kids do, and it makes monitoring social distancing and contact tracing without help a lot to ask of teachers, professors, and administrators.
New wearable technology, however, provides an innovative way for schools, colleges, and universities to augment what the adults are doing to keep people safe. These trackers can play a vital role in both social distancing and contract tracing. Wearable trackers may sound like something out of a dystopian young adult novel, but they are designed to ensure privacy and cannot be used to actively track students. Instead, they focus on measuring the physical distance to other students’ wearables trackers – signaling to let students know when they are forgetting to socially distance.
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