Author: JD Biersdorfer, New York Times Company
When some people return to the office or classroom after the COVID-19 interruption for 18 months, maintaining social distancing remains an issue, especially if the highly contagious delta variant is spreading nationwide. Here are some simple tips for using your smartphone to help you stay informed and safe when you return to the office or school.
Regularly checking school, municipal, and state websites can keep you up to date with mask regulations, vaccine requirements, quarantine, and other COVID-related news. By making bookmarks for these websites, you can click to open these websites directly from the home screen, so as to get your facts faster.
Open the page you want to bookmark. The steps will vary by browser and mobile phone, but if you are using the Chrome browser on an Android device, click the “More” menu in the upper right corner and select “Add to Home Screen”. On an iOS device using the Safari browser, tap the action menu icon at the bottom center of the screen, and then select “Add to Home Screen”.
In addition to the informative website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has its own mobile application. For local virus news, check your app store, as many states have their own apps to track outbreaks, provide personal contact notifications, provide vaccine information, and provide general news alerts.
Take the card with you
Certain agencies, locations, and employers now have vaccine requirements, and many New York City businesses require certification and will enforce it next month. Although your paper vaccination card can be used as proof, you can safely keep it at home and digitize it. Some states have electronic vaccination passports, which you can store in the digital wallet of your mobile phone and display it when you ask; New York’s Excelsior Pass program is an example.
The photos of your paper vaccination card can also be used as a digital backup, and some employers may accept these images as proof of vaccination, especially in apps such as NYC COVID Safe. However, the card contains personal information, so please keep your phone locked when not in use. Apple’s iOS software settings provide passwords, Face ID or Touch ID to protect the device.
Android users can also set a screen lock in the system settings. In addition to PINs or passwords, some phone models (including Google and Samsung models) also use biometric keys, such as facial recognition. For extra protection, Android users can store the vaccine card image in a locked folder in Google Photos; just open the card image, click on the More menu and select “Move to Locked Folder”.
Modify your commute
Commuting with social distancing is more challenging for people who do not drive and walk or use public transportation to travel. Last year, both Apple and Google added coronavirus-related business information to their map apps, and the recent Google Maps update now shows busy areas so you can better avoid crowds.
If you want to take the off-peak time train or stroll on inaccessible paths, both Apple Maps and Google Maps provide real-time bus schedules and optional walking routes. Professional apps such as Citymapper cover multiple modes of transportation, including shared bikes and ferries. Localized traffic applications (such as MYmta for Android and iOS in New York City) can also be used for service status and updates.
If you walk to work face to face on your Android phone, the “head up” notification on some models will remind you where you want to go. Enable this feature in the digital health settings.
If you cannot pick up breakfast or lunch from a distance through the drive-through window, there are other ways to minimize your contact, such as calling a local restaurant or wine cellar. Loyalty apps from convenience stores or restaurants such as 7-11 and Wawa (McDonald’s, Panera Bread, and Starbucks, to name a few) provide online ordering and mobile checkout functions to reduce contact.
And don’t forget contactless payment systems such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay to prevent you from fumbling for physical cash and speed up your speed at the cash register or subway gate. (The contactless credit card of your financial institution is another option. You can pay by swiping the card on the checkout reader.)
Now that you are truly out of the house, please consider more apps to help with the transition. The mobile version of your company’s preferred video conferencing application allows you to get out of the meeting room and hold a meeting anywhere, even without your computer.
After more than a year of remote work, it may be more difficult to leave your vague home office partner when you return to this world. If the separation makes you anxious, consider using a cheap streaming webcam so you can use your phone to check your pet in real time. The Wirecutter website provides suggestions on camera options, allowing you to stay at home virtually before going home.
This article originally appeared in New York Times.