With most students back in classrooms as of 12 October, and Victoria’s Year 8 to 10s joining the rest later this month, education is facing a ‘new normal’ of social distancing and protective barriers.
The possibility of just one confirmed case leading to a school closure may be front of mind for many educators, but the Australian-born Contact Harald takes some of the pressure off the process.
Using Bluetooth-enabled key cards, the contact tracing platform registers the wearer’s close contacts, and should a case be reported, identifies and alerts those at risk. Elissa Reid, Director of Health & Product at Contact Harald, told Education Matters that with the social and emotional impact of remote learning, it’s vital contact tracing be made simple, user friendly and unobtrusive as possible.
“Part of traditional learning is being in a physical space where students can mature and develop their social skills. You can learn the theory over Zoom, but you don’t get that same experience,” Reid said.
“As a parent of a high school student, getting back to on-campus learning and the social connectivity side of education, if my daughter attended a school that used Contact Harald, I would have tremendous peace of mind that the school takes her health and wellbeing seriously.”
Following a login process, a school or university can distribute Contact Harald cards to each student, staff member, contractor, or visitor on campus. They can carry on their day as usual, attending classes and taking advantage of social time, while wearing the card around their neck.
If two cards are within 1.5 metres of each other for more than two minutes, they will begin to record and log that encounter. A school or business can upload that data to a central location each day, or what Reid recommends, enable a positive or suspected case to press a button on the card that will send a notification to close contacts.
“It’s very passive and they don’t need to download anything on their phone. By wearing the card, it’s also a visual tool to show we’re all complying with this safety measure,” Reid said.
“One of our users is a chocolate manufacturer and the feedback from the CEO is that Contact Harald has improved staff morale. They feel safer and less worried about how the company approaches health and safety in their workplace. That same sense of reassurance can be felt by school employees, parents and students.”
Contact Harald has been implemented in sites across Australia, the United States and Europe. Not only has it sped up contact tracing in these locations, but shifting the responsibility of contact tracing from the government onto the site of infection has enabled them to act and adapt quicker.
“In traditional methods of contract tracing, the process is instigated by the Department of Health rather than the environment in which the contact actually occurred. It can take days for an institution to be notified there has been a case,” Reid said.
“In the United States, we had a confirmed case at one of our sites. They avoided having a complete shutdown by running a contact trace through the Contact Harald database. They were able to complete that process in two minutes, rather than the six to eight hours, at the very least, it would take with traditional tracing.”
Contact Harald is very simple for a school or business to set up, which Reid said has come in handy during lockdowns and restrictions in Victoria. All of the hardware – including the Bluetooth cards and tablets for admin staff – is shipped to the school, with online and remote training and onboarding available in addition to written materials.
“Contact Harald is truly an out-of-the-box solution,” Reid said. “If a school was to deploy Contact Harald, they’d be up and running within a few hours of receiving the box.”
While Contact Harald was developed in response to COVID-19, parent company Safedome has a wealth of experience in BlueTooth technology. Reid and Contact Harald co-founders, Nick O’Halloran and Matt Denton, see there being many applications for the system after the pandemic has ended.
“In the ‘new normal’, health monitoring will be an enduring requirement for closed environments like schools and aged care. Contact Harald will be able to offer this service as an ongoing capability, but we’ve also been mindful to consider its full ability,” Reid said.
“The technology can be integrated into an organisation as a fixed asset register. In the education sector, our Contact Harald card could be used as a campus access card or ID, a library card, or it could be loaded with funds to spend at the school canteen or campus café.
“For now, Contact Harald puts the contact trace process days ahead of traditional intervention, slowing the spread and minimising ongoing transmission.”
For more information, visit www.contactharald.com