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Fairfield man designs app to track COVID

Aaron Shier
Aaron Shier
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FAIRFIELD – A Fairfield resident has created an online app to help people track COVID-19 cases in their county.

Aaron Shier said he created the app because he wanted to know how rapidly the virus was spreading and found that he could do a great public service by making the data easily accessible on a single website. Shier’s website is jeffersoncountycovid.com. Though it has Jefferson County in the name, it has information about all 99 of Iowa’s counties.

The top information displayed on the website shows the number of active COVID cases in the county, deaths, all-time cases, recovered and the percent testing positive in the past 14 days. Below that are a series of graphs that show how each figure has changed over time. Users can toggle between starting and ending dates to see the virus’s spread over any time scale they wish.

Shier works in the music and entertainment business, but he’s currently unemployed after the pandemic shut down the industry. He’s decided to dedicate his time to projects like this COVID tracker app and estimates he’s put 70-80 hours into designing it.

“When I get passionate about something, I go full force,” he said. “I’m not trying to make any money off this. This is just a community service.”

One of Shier’s innovations is how easily the data can be shared with friends. When users share the info in a text message or by posting it on social media, a preview pane shows up containing the most relevant information. That allows the recipient to read the latest COVID data on their phone or computer without even having to click the link.

“I’m trying to save people work,” Shier said.

Shier said he made his website into an app for his phone, but he can’t share it with other people through an online app store. He said the app store declined to carry it because he created it as a personal developer instead of as a corporation. The app store is hesitant to carry apps made by individuals because they are less accountable if something goes wrong.

Shier said he was motivated to create the app because he grew up around people with medical problems, such as his father, who suffered from multiple sclerosis. After the pandemic hit earlier this year, Shier noticed that people were not closely tracking the number of cases, and he believed it was because they found it too hard. He wanted to make it easier for people to get a full picture of the virus’s spread.

“I like to keep track of things in my town,” Shier said.

Shier said his web application could not have come at a better time, especially for Jefferson County, where 50 percent of its total cases are currently active cases.

“I don’t have any pre-existing conditions, but the fact [the virus] is out of control is a little bit frightening,” Shier said.

Shier hopes that other computer programmers will lend a helping hand to making the website even better and expand the data available to people throughout Iowa.