Madison and Main Founder David Saunders Talks About His New App, COVID Wise


Live from Virginia Wednesday morning on The John Fredericks Show –  weekdays on WNTW AM 820/ FM 92.7 – Richmond, WJFN FM 100.5 – Central Virginia, WMPH AM 1010 / FM 100.1 / FM 96.9 (7-9 PM) Hampton Roads, WBRG AM 1050 / FM 105.1 – Lynchburg/Roanoke and Weekdays 6-10 am and 24/7 Stream –  host Fredericks welcomed founder of Madison & Main David Saunders to the show to describe his new app called COVID Wise.

Fredericks: Joining us now David Sanders. David great guy. David is the founder of Madison and Main. That’s an advertising agency in Virginia. And he’s also spearheading the new COVID Wise app in Virginia. And David we wanted to have you on today to kind of bring us an update and explain what it is and how it works. And thanks for being with us David.

Saunders: Hey John, I appreciate you having me on I really do.

Fredericks: What’s COVID Wise? What is the app? What does it do?

Saunders: You know it’s important and I appreciate you having me on to have the opportunity to give me the opportunity to explain what it is and what it is not. When the technology component of contact tracing was first developed. I mean back in, you know, March and April and nobody knew exactly what was going on with the diseased part of the thing is to contact tracing it was important to let people know, you know, back in March.

Part of the thing it was important to let people know that 40 percent of folks that have COVID have no symptoms whatsoever. So you could walk right by someone and or be in close proximity to them and be infected. And so early attempts at this would be put on a map and it tracks your location and it required you put in a bunch of data and all that and guess what? It was a giant flop right? Because nobody wants to give their data over to the government. Nobody wants to be tracked. In a state of 3 million people, 400 downloaded the app. That was a flop, right? So Google and Apple, the tech giants who normally don’t work together on anything got together and said, you know what, Android and iPhones both have Bluetooth low energy, right?

It’s a beacon. Well, you know the same way that you put your headphones on two feet from your phone and you can hear your music. Using this technology which has been around since I’ve been at college and that was a long time ago John. They put together this framework so people could develop an app. Virginia was the first state to do it because it doesn’t track you. It protects your privacy.

It doesn’t require any personal data. But the phone basically acts like beacons. So if you and I were at a restaurant and we were five feet apart and sitting there for more than 15 minutes and I’d later test positive for COVID you would get an anonymous notification later saying hey, I was in close proximity to someone, not Dave, but someone who was likely infected with COVID-19. So it gets down to using this really nice balance between privacy and technology in the fight against COVID-19.

Fredericks: So what does it do for me? So I’m at a restaurant and I have COVID Wise. And I’ve downloaded the app. So it’s kind of like one of those walk apps or mileage IQ apps that you know, turn on when you start moving. So I sit down there’s a guy or a gal to tables down. Eight feet, 6 feet, 5 feet. And I don’t know eight days later they test positive. What does that have to do with me?

Saunders: You know, I’ll give you an example of me. I was one of those rare folks that actually got a notification. Okay, so Friday night. Like 1:44 a.m. in the morning. I thought my kids were texting me. I get a ping. It’s it’s an exposure notification from COVID Wise. And it says you were likely exposed four days ago. I don’t know if that was at my Rotary meeting. I don’t know if that was at the Council of CEOs. I don’t know if it was a Kroger. but I do know that during the course of that day I was closer than six feet and longer than 15 minutes next to someone or my phone was next to someone who had been diagnosed with COVID. Now, I got the notification. So I wanted to know and I downloaded the app. And so the very next morning I went to CVS I went through the drive-thru I got the test and luckily two days later I’m negative but I would rather know than sit at home for 14 days and go you know what? I don’t know or get the virus and go you know. I don’t know and then for like three-four five-ten days, I’m infecting other people. And that’s one of the reasons why this app so effective.

Fredericks: So what’s the objective of it?

Saunders: The objective of it is to slow the spread which is something we heard six months ago. But ultimately there’s an Oxford study out there that says that 56 percent of cell phone users in an area if they download it you completely erase the disease. It’s so effective in terms of slowing the spread and ultimately stopping the spread. It could actually wipe it out and there have been areas where that been effective where people have used this sort of contact tracing application in Virginia.

We’ve had a lot of success. I mean today, we have almost 600,000 people that have downloaded the app in two months. And every day the more people that use it the more chance that we can stop infections. Part of the thing, that same Oxford study really basically said you don’t even need to have massive numbers on this to make a difference. Literally for every two people that download the app that’s one prevention of an infection. So just even at very very low numbers right now.

Fredericks: How does it prevent infection if I’m sitting five feet.? All it does is notify me.

Saunders: So let’s say that in my case. Let’s say that I was notified four days earlier and let’s say that I didn’t know and I was positive. Let’s say ten days later I developed symptoms. That’s six days that I’m walking around either with my mask or without my mask in Kroger or at Rotary. All these other things with my family at home. And I’m literally could have infected many many many more people. I meet a lot of people during the course of the day even during the shutdown.

So when you do that, multiply that by tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people out there that have that then you really start making a difference. One of the things is that you know, you know even with the president being diagnosed with COVID. With governor being and the first lady here being diagnosed, they meet a lot of people in the course of the day. The governor himself got a notification through COVID Wise and that was one of the things that they were notified even earlier than they were possibly infected before the test results came back. The idea is the speed, the idea of distance proximity, and the speed of notification helps slow this thing.

Fredericks: So let me ask you this. I got a question here from Jimmy in Indianapolis. Jimmy says, can you ask David this. Is it going to prevent an infection or delay it can we truly stop a virus? Serious questions for our guests. Tackle that one.

Saunders: It’s not going to prevent anything. You know, here’s the thing. I mean the CDC has guidelines on how to protect yourself, you know, if you’re wearing full PPE or if you’re wearing something else. And that’s really not what this is about this at this. This app doesn’t put an invisible cloak around you so you’re not going to prevent anything here.

But in terms of notification, so that’s what it is and what it isn’t. It’s an exposure notification system. And one of the things about it is we know that why do people have to quarantine at home for 14 days. You can be infectious for up to 14 days, which is one of the reasons why this app generates random pins for that length of period. So in terms of preventing the spread of the virus, this is really what the app is about. But a great question and I appreciate it.

Fredericks: I have an iPhone, so if I go to the App Store and I download COVID Wise, right?  And then like tonight I’m doing an event for the campaign and the Pence-Kamala Harris debate. So I’m doing an event there. Of course, I always put a mask on I’m respectful towards others whether or not I believe it’s effective or not is irrelevant to me. Because other people do and I’m just a respectful guy and that’s fine. So I have my mask on. So then if one of the people that maybe they’ll be 100 people there, if one of those people test positive then I’m going to get an anonymous beep that somebody that I was in proximity too on Wednesday night tested positive?

Saunders: That’s exactly it. That’s how it works.

Listen to the full show here:

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