CovidWatcher FAQ

How safe is my information?

Your privacy is our priority. You can choose to answer the surveys in an anonymous fashion on the Web, or download the CovidWatcher app where you will sign an informed consent to collect some additional information like your name and email. Whether you decide to use the website or the app, we keep all identifiable information separate from the collected data. We also carry out our analysis of the different needs in an aggregated way across all participants; thus we never disclose any data from any individual person.

Finally, all collected data are kept on highly secure, HIPAA-certified servers, and our team has specific training to keep your information safe. All data collection and analysis has been reviewed and approved by the Columbia University Institutional Review Board (Protocol #AAAS9690).

Who is part of the team behind CovidWatcher?

CovidWatcher is a research collaboration among the Department of Biomedical Informatics, Department of Infectious Diseases, and the Urban and Social Policy Program Program at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. This team comprises data-scientists, technologists, clinical researchers, informatics researchers, and urban policy researchers. 

How do I use the website or app?

The website and the CovidWatcher app contain a variety of rapid surveys that help gather information on different parts of your life that could be affected during this pandemic, such as what things are stressing you out, if you’re having trouble paying bills, or if you have run out of your regular medications.

The best way to use both the website and app is to consistently fill out as many surveys as you can! Ideally, this means opening up the website or app every couple days and filling out surveys. Most surveys are designed to be answered on a weekly basis, as the pandemic, re-opening the city, and your status evolve. Doing so helps us find out how the needs of New Yorkers are changing through time.

How will my information be used?

The information gathered through your surveys will be analyzed by data-science researchers at Columbia University. They will be able to generate maps that reveal which neighborhoods and communities are in most need of various resources and reports that highlight different trends in time of needs. We are making the data available in an anonymous, de-identified fashion to our community partners.  You can also access these maps and reports to track the impact of the pandemic on your neighborhood and your community.

Should I use CovidWatcher even if I do not have symptoms or never had COVID-19?

Yes! The pandemic affects many aspects of our daily lives and will continue to do so in different ways through time. You may be struggling to pay bills, get groceries, or have other needs that organizations could help address. Every single bit of information matters and can help us understand what your community needs.

In the event that you do develop symptoms, your data will play an important role in our fight against coronavirus (COVID-19). It will help us understand potential future hotspots in the City.

How do I get in touch with the CovidWatcher team?

To contact the team, send an email with your questions or concerns to

How else can I help out?

Apart from filling out surveys, the best way to help is to get others in your community involved. This means sending a link for the website or app to all of the friends, family, and coworkers that you can think of! We are focusing on New York City, because it is the center of the pandemic, but the website and the app can be used by anyone in the country.