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College introduces app to assist contact tracing

September 17, 2021

In a September 9 email, Senior Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Janet Lohmann introduced NAVICA, a mobile app to help the College’s effort in managing COVID-19 outbreaks on campus. After moving to Yellow status and extending the mask mandate in the past two weeks, this marks another step in the College’s effort to curb infection rates.

“NAVICA offers a secure way of ensuring each student has performed the test and provides a time stamp for when those tests were taken. The Delta [variant] incubates more quickly than prior [variants of the virus], and the infectious period for vaccinated students is also proving to cycle much faster,” wrote Lohmann in an email to the Orient. “Without the app, we have no idea when and if the close contacts and those who are symptomatic have taken the test.”

The NAVICA app works with the BinaxNOW eMed home-test antigen test that is provided to students who are close contacts of students diagnosed with COVID-19. The app is intended to help streamline at-home tests and increase the accuracy and reporting of results.

“It wasn’t necessary until we had a number of cases and close contacts,” Lohmann wrote.  “Heading into the semester, our plans for managing COVID-19 on campus were designed to be dynamic and to allow us to adapt, given the evolving nature of the virus.”

All students were asked to download the app to help simplify the process and minimize the need to escalate COVID-19 protocols in the future. This particular app was chosen because it is the only digital application that pairs with the BinaxNOW home antigen test.

As of Wednesday, 954 students have downloaded the NAVICA app. Upon downloading, the app asks for address, race, ethnicity, phone number and other identifiers required by the federal government to track the number of infections.

“Bowdoin works diligently to ensure that student personal information is safe and protected. Members of our IT staff and other administrators met with NAVICA representatives to review how information is protected, retained, and stored,” Lohmann wrote. “NAVICA met all of the College’s requirements, and we are confident that student privacy will be protected.”

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