The Apple Watch Contribution to the COVID-19 Conundrum

I am a devotee of (almost) all things Apple. While I haven’t quite cozied up to their notebooks, I was in love from the very first iPhone I bought. I’m now on my second iPhone (my iPhone 6 Plus retired after about 10 years in favor of the iPhone 11 Pro Max), bought my first Apple Watch about a year ago, and I’m about to buy my 3rd iPad. My 6 Plus is now joining the first generation iPad, and my iPad Air2 in the Tucker-Apple Hall of Fame.

I practically run my house using my iPad. I use it in my yoga studio for Zoom classes and yoga videos. I use it to stream live video and music to televisions and other devices throughout, or use it to just watch or listen to when I’m moving through rooms or floating up and down the stairs. I also make and receive calls and texts using it. When I’m driving, I’m almost always running my playlists through my car audio from my iPhone, not to mention sending and receiving calls and texts (safely, of course). I also conduct business using both devices, helping me to keep my personal and professional lives running smoothly.

The medical safety feature played a big role in my decision to buy the Apple Watch. The videos of people who told their stories about how the watch impacted their lives during medical emergencies was the influence. Shortly after I bought my watch, I “accidentally” tested that feature when I slipped and banged my forearm on the kitchen counter. The Apple Watch, detecting a “fall” immediately went into action, and gave me a 30-second warning that it was calling my contacts and the paramedics if I didn’t answer. That got my attention, and I felt comforted that I’d made the right decision in purchasing one.

It shouldn’t have surprised me when the Apple Watch again got my attention shortly after the most recent iOS 14 update, but it did. While I knew the update was coming, I didn’t know what the feature enhancements would be, one of which I “accidentally” discovered while washing my hands. This ginsu-knife of watches now has the ability to detect when a user is washing his or her hands and in response, starts a 20-second countdown, and notifies the user with a pulse on the wrist, a sweet chime and a thumbs up image when their 20 seconds are up.

It is easy to believe that Apple added this feature in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Frequent hand washing has been heavily promoted as just one of the things we all can do to protect ourselves from this scourge. The CDC guidelines recommend washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to help combat the spread. Because handwashing is something we all do without really thinking about it, how many of us actually reach the recommended 20 seconds every time?

Our minds tend to wander off when we’re doing something that is rather mundane. Sure, we can sing “Happy Birthday” or “Mary Had A Little Lamb” for 20 seconds, but singing a nursery rhyme can be perceived as “not cool” or “a little embarrassing,” especially when you’re in a public restroom with other people present. This countdown feature makes compliance easy because it’s discreet, and it brings us back to the present moment when our 20 seconds are up and our minds are somewhere else.

I’m sure that this level of integration is probably what Apple had in mind once it gained a foothold in our lives. While that sounds insidious, it really is purposeful since we still get to decide how much integration we want Apple to have. It really isn’t an “all or nothing” proposition. For those who are inclined to “look to see what’s under the hood,” you’ll find out that you get to choose the features you want enabled, or not. Those who are more technically inclined will know right away which features they want to enable and how to disable the ones they don’t. For the rest, the online User Guide will be indispensable in making those choices.

In any case, if you own an Apple Watch, this is a feature that you may want to enable for yourself, your loved ones, and for the nation.

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Tech Writer, IT Project Manager and Yogi

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Michelle Tucker

Michelle Tucker

Tech Writer, IT Project Manager and Yogi

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