Safer Illinois app helps control spread of COVID-19

A+University+Wellness+Associate+checks+a+woman+into+Bevier+Hall+on+Wednesday+afternoon.+Students+and+faculty+are+unable+to+enter+University+buildings+without+building+access+being+granted+through+the+Safer+Illinois+application.

Ryan Ash

A University Wellness Associate checks a woman into Bevier Hall on Wednesday afternoon. Students and faculty are unable to enter University buildings without building access being granted through the Safer Illinois application.

By Jacqui Nguyen, Contributing Writer

The University’s new system for monitoring building access is centered around the Safer Illinois application. Built specifically for the students on campus in Urbana-Champaign, this app is downloaded by faculty, staff and students to keep track of COVID-19 updates and statuses around campus. 

The Safer Illinois app allows users to view their COVID-19 test history, find test locations, self-report symptoms, add their own test results and view their current status. Due to the ongoing pandemic, students must test twice a week and faculty and staff must test once a week using the University’s saliva-based testing system at tents set up around campus. The Safer Illinois app will then automatically update the student’s health history and change their current status to yellow, indicating a recent negative test result. From there, the app will grant the student building access. 

In order to ensure everyone who enters University buildings has been granted building access, the University has hired hundreds of students, or Wellness Associates, to sit in the entrances to these buildings and check Safer Illinois apps. 

The app has been an effective tool for controlling the spread of COVID-19 for Wellness Associate Nicole Helinski, a Sophomore in AHS. 

“With what’s going on right now I think it’s a really good regulation put in place on campus where the status changes after three to four days,” Nicole said. “It keeps students accountable for getting tested and knowing their own schedules.”

Wellness Associates like Helinski have tools to handle a variety of situations that may occur when it comes to checking building access. The campus is split into zones that cover groups of buildings and for every zone, a zone supervisor makes themselves available for the Wellness Associates to report to if they have trouble. At the beginning of each shift, associates are given iPhones that they can use to call their supervisors in case someone does not want to cooperate. 

In addition to iPhones and zone supervisors, Wellness Associates are specially trained to handle more difficult situations. Wellness Associate Jerell Wilson also checks apps; however, he canceled his plans to attend the University this semester due to COVID-19. When it comes to dealing with uncooperative people, Wilson, along with other wellness associates, have gone through special training. 

“I’ve only had one person get upset at the situation, but with all our training in de-escalation, I pretty much just handle it by saying ‘I’m sorry, you can’t enter,” Wilson said. “I need you to be tested between these days, and these days so you just need to wait for the app to update.”

For the most part, the students, staff and faculty are cooperative, and Wilson said usually people are pretty understanding.

As for the students who use the app, they must remember to get tested in time for their in-person class or planned building entrance. Rebecca Omole, freshman in LAS, uses the Safer Illinois app to attend her two in-person classes and to access the ARC.

“I’ve only been denied once, so I ended up not going to class that day,” Omole said.

The Safer Illinois app is utilized by those all across campus to control the spread of COVID-19. Thankfully, students, faculty and staff understand they must keep track of their testing status, and this app has helped them do so. 

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