The University of Toronto has launched UCheck, a COVID-19 self-assessment web portal. The portal was designed in partnership with Thrive Health to help students, faculty, and staff determine if it is safe for them to come to campus or leave their residence room.
The self-assessment can be completed on smartphones, tablets, and computers with an internet connection. It consists of a series of questions designed to gauge whether or not an individual is at risk of spreading COVID-19, including questions about the individual experiencing the symptoms associated with the virus or coming into contact with another individual who has exhibited symptoms.
Tracking risk statuses
UCheck generates a “risk status” upon completion of the questionnaire — a ‘green’ risk status indicates that it is safe for the individual to visit campus or leave their residence room, and a ‘red’ risk status indicates that it is not. Individuals are encouraged to follow the recommendations provided along with the result of their self-assessment.
In an email to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson wrote that the portal was created in partnership with Thrive Health due to its expertise in health care data privacy. Thrive Health is also behind the Canadian government’s COVID-19 self-assessment app.
For privacy, the university will not be able to access an individual’s responses to UCheck’s questionnaire. However, employees’ and students’ risk statuses will be collected by the university for administrative purposes, such as to potentially track an increase in ‘red’ risk statuses. Statuses will also be sent to various university bodies to provide follow-up support.
Students’ statuses will be shared with their registrars, health and wellness professionals, the occupational health nurse (OHN), and the dean of students or dean of residence, if applicable. For employees, their status will be shared with their supervisor, along with the OHN and health and wellness professionals.
The spokesperson informed The Varsity that while the use of UCheck is not mandatory, “what is required is that all members of our community monitor their symptoms and stay home if they are sick.” As such, individuals are encouraged to complete a new self-assessment every time they plan to visit campus or leave their residence room. In addition, a ‘green’ risk status must be presented before entering U of T athletic and recreational facilities.
Students who are unable to use UCheck due to lack of access to a smartphone, tablet, computer, or the internet are asked to contact their registrar, who is able to provide paper versions of the assessment.
CUPE 3902, a labour union at U of T that represents over 10,000 contract academic workers, has openly opposed the university’s reopening plan due to safety concerns. In an email to The Varsity, Amy Conwell, Chair of CUPE 3902, expressed that the launch of UCheck does not mitigate her concerns that U of T has no concrete plans for contract tracing.
“The University has told us that they are exploring contact tracing for a ‘potential future phase of UCheck,’ but have provided no information about when that future phase might be,” Conwell wrote.
In an interview with The Varsity, U of T President Meric Gertler commented that the university has “excellent plans in place for contact tracing,” although such a plan has yet to be made public.
UCheck statuses provided to the OHN will be used for follow-up support, “potentially including contact tracing.”
“In the meantime, they have no plans to contact trace or even to publicize information about the number of positive cases on campus,” Conwell wrote. Without concrete testing plans, she expressed that “the UCheck tool is a distraction.”
UCheck’s FAQ page acknowledges that this portal does not contact trace and that a risk status is not the same as a medical diagnosis. “We know that self-assessment and staying home when you have symptoms is a key way to slow the spread of COVID-19,” the U of T spokesperson wrote in an email to The Varsity.
“Though not mandatory, UCheck is an easy way for members of our community to assess their symptoms on a daily basis and not come to campus if they have any.” To encourage students, staff, and faculty to use the portal, U of T will promote the portal across all three campuses through emails, posters, student newsletters, social media, and digital screens on campus.
UCheck can be accessed with a UTORid at ucheck.utoronto.ca.
Editor’s note (September 15): This article was updated to include a quote from Gertler concerning contact tracing at U of T.