St. Augustine distributing 900 smart thermometers to help monitor community health

People who work with the public and families with multiple children are prime candidates

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The City of St. Augustine on Tuesday started handing out 900 smart thermometers to eligible volunteer candidates, prioritizing city residents, utility customers, large-member households and households with members who come in contact and interact with the public as part of their daily work or volunteering.

“The purpose of the project is to give our public health officials a real-time monitoring tool that detects changes in our public health so that they can promptly respond,” City Manager John Regan said. “The foundation of an opening plan, really for any community, is to make sure that we have the ability to detect any upswing in COVID-19.”

City residents and utility customers will be the first to receive thermometers if they qualify.

“Ideally, participants live in a larger household (more than four) and their employment or volunteering puts them in a higher level of exposure to larger numbers of people in the community,” Regan said. “These are not only our first responders, public safety officers and healthcare workers… but also school teachers, grocery store clerks, restaurant and hospitality workers, or any of the support staff within these professions.”

The project, which is happening in collaboration with Kinsa, Inc., will soon expand to include residents outside of the city limits, the city said.

The city of St. Augustine started taking phone calls at 8 a.m. Tuesday at 904-825-1006, Option 1. The dedicated phone line will be monitored from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Callers will speak directly to city staff monitoring the phone lines and will be asked six simple questions, starting with your name and address, and if you have a mobile phone that connects to the internet.

The data is monitored through the Kinsa smartphone application, but no personal information is conveyed with a temperature measurement to the monitoring network, the city said.

Additional questions include whether you or a member of your household physically leaves the home for work and interacts with 10 or more people on any given workday. Also, how many people live in your household, and if you think a smart thermometer would be helpful.

The answers will be recorded and given a certain point value and the final cumulative score determines the caller’s eligibility for receiving a thermometer.

A city resident or utility customer with a qualifying score will qualify for a thermometer and be given the choice to pick up the device at the drive-through window located at 50 Bridge Street, or the city will make arrangements to hand-deliver it to your home.

Someone with a qualifying score who is not a city resident or utility customer will be placed on a waitlist and be eligible for next wave of distribution.

Those with a nonqualifying score can purchase a thermometer at a retail store or online. Whether the city provides the thermometer, or it is purchased privately, any registered device is automatically included in this project network.

“It is our goal to distribute these 900 thermometers so that we can begin collecting data in what will be the densest real-time temperature network in the country,” Regan said. “But the number one priority of this program is to keep our community healthy.”

Regan said the technology will also help the city in the event of future outbreaks.

“If we see a pattern of community change in body temperature, it will alert health officials to do the right epidemiological work, which leads to the best possibility of containment," Regan said.

According to the city, at least 75 households had qualified as of late Tuesday.

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