The Los Angeles school district is launching a Microsoft-developed a COVID-tracking app for children, which allows students to schedule and view the results of COVID tests, post the results of off-campus COVID tests, and schedule vaccinations.
According to a promotional video, however, "the real magic is your daily health check," where students answer a questionnaire about whether they have any symptoms - after which the "Daily Pass" app will issue the child a scannable QR code to be scanned by a staff member, who will also take the child's temperature.
"Your entrance ticket appears!" exclaims the narrator.
It's Microsoft Magik! Thanks Bill for our daily pass! pic.twitter.com/z0rku5SY95— Jeff Berwick (@BerwickJeff) February 28, 2021
Given the incredibly low transmission rate of COVID transmission at schools - just 0.08% among more than 90,000 students in North Carolina school districts according to the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy - one can't help but question whether Microsoft's app will actually improve the COVID situation, or simply collect data and habituate children to being tracked. Of note, all data will be reported as required to health authorities, according to the LA Times.
The app, first announced in August, will be 'instrumental in coordinating student and employee health checks, coronavirus tests and vaccinations.'
The software associated with the app is already being used to schedule and track district-managed coronavirus tests and vaccinations — the district began a pilot vaccination effort last week.
In Monday’s announcement, Beutner touted the app’s ability to generate a unique QR code for each student and staff member authorizing entry to a specific L.A. Unified location for that day.
A person will receive that code based on a negative coronavirus test or by self-reporting that they are free of symptoms. When those individuals arrive at a campus, their QR code, a type of barcode, is scanned by a staff member, who also takes the individual’s temperature. Besides helping to keep people safe, the goal is to prevent logjams at the entrance to school at the beginning of the day. -LA Times
"Sort of like the golden ticket in ‘Willy Wonka,’ everyone with this pass can easily get into a school building," said Superintendent Austin Beutner in a Monday statement.
The Times notes that this process "will not catch people who are asymptomatic carriers of the infection" (16% of children who contract COVID), but the school district hopes to "address that shortcoming through the weekly coronavirus testing of students and staff."
"We'll know the status of everyone on the building," said Buetner, who added that it's unclear when elementary schools will return to in-person instruction, but that day-care and small-group in-person learning will begin this week for a limited number of children.
United Teachers Los Angeles, meanwhile, says their district's teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians should not return to work until they are fully immunized.