July 5, 2022

With some people returning to the office or classroom after more than 18 months of Covid-19 disorder, maintaining social distance remains a problem, especially given the highly contagious Delta variant that is widespread across the country. Here are a few simple suggestions for using your smartphone to stay informed and safe when you return to the office or school.

Regular reviews of school, community, and state websites can keep you updated on mask requirements, vaccination requirements, quarantines, and other Covid-related news. Get your facts faster by bookmarking these websites that you can open right from your home screen.

Credit…Google; Apple

Open the page you want to bookmark. Steps vary by browser and phone, but if you’re using the Chrome browser on an Android device, tap the More menu in the top right corner and select “Add to Home Screen”. On an iOS device with the Safari browser, tap the action menu icon in the lower center of the screen and select “Add to Home Screen”.

In addition to its informative website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has its own mobile app. For local virus news, visit your app store as many states have their own apps to track outbreaks, provide personal exposure notifications, provide vaccine information, and offer general news alerts.

Certain institutions, venues, and employers now require vaccinations, and many New York City companies require proof and will enforce it next month. While your paper vaccination card serves as proof, you can keep it safely at home and digitize it. Some states have electronic vaccination records that you can store in your phone’s digital wallet and view upon request. The Excelsior Pass program in New York is an example.

Credit…Apple; Google

Paper photos of your vaccination card can also act as a digital backup, and some employers may accept the images as proof of vaccination, especially in apps like NYC Covid Safe. However, the card contains personal information, so keep your phone locked when it is not in use. Apple’s iOS software settings provide a passcode, Face ID, or Touch ID to help protect the device.

Android users can also set up a screen lock in the system settings. In addition to a PIN or passcode, some phone models (including those from Google and Samsung) use biometric keys such as facial recognition. For added protection, Android users can save vaccination card images in a locked folder in Google Photos – just open the card image, tap the More menu and select Move to Locked Folder.

Updated

August 22nd, 2021, 1:00 p.m. ET

Socially distant commuting is more of a challenge for people who don’t drive and walk or use public transport to get around. Over the past year, both Apple and Google added coronavirus-related business information to their map apps.

If you want to take the trains outside of rush hour or if you want to stroll the less traveled trail, Apple Maps and Google Maps both offer real-time timetables and optional walking routes. Specialized apps like Citymapper cover multiple modes of transport, including bike rentals and ferries. And localized transit apps (like New York City’s MYmta for Android and iOS) can also be useful for service status and updates.

Credit…Google

And when you go to work with your face on your Android phone, the heads up notifications on some models remind you to see where you are going. Activate the function in the digital wellbeing settings.

If a drive-through window is not an option for remotely picking up your breakfast or lunch, there are other ways to minimize your exposure, such as walking around the corner. Loyalty apps from convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Wawa or restaurants (McDonald’s, Panera Bread, and Starbucks, to name a few) offer online ordering and mobile payment to zip things with minimal contact.

And don’t forget contactless payment systems like Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay so that you don’t fumble with cash and quickly get through at the cash register or at the subway turnstile. (A contactless credit card from your financial institution is another option that allows you to pay by tapping the card on the till reader.)

Now that you’ve actually made it out of the house, there are a few more apps you might want to consider to help you make the transition. With the mobile version of your company’s favorite video conferencing app, you can leave a conference room and hold a meeting anywhere, even without your computer.

Credit…Google; Zooming

After working remotely for more than a year, it can be especially difficult to leave your fuzzy work colleague when you return to the world. If the breakup worries you, consider an inexpensive streaming webcam that allows you to check your pet in real time using your phone. The Wirecutter site has recommendations for camera options so you can virtually stay in the house until you get home.