Testing a new health verification app with the University of Kansas

CVKey Project
5 min readJun 4, 2020


Designed to help counties, universities and other communities reopen responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic

We’re announcing a partnership with the University of Kansas to test our health verification app called CVKey. This solution came about because we asked the question: how do we help large groups reopen and remain healthy, in a way that also works for everyone at the individual level? It’s the first step to help communities reopen responsibly during the novel coronavirus pandemic — without compromising privacy.

So how do we get back to work, school, and society without increasing the risk of a second wave of COVID-19 infections? Experts point to the need for a phased approach, selectively reopening in a manner that protects the most vulnerable. We need to be creative and use everything at our disposal to keep the public safe. Technology can help balance protection of the public’s health with the economic imperative of reopening. That’s why we’re building a suite of privacy-first, open-source community health apps, of which this health verification app is the first. We’re honored to partner with KU in this effort.

How CVKey works

In general, CVKey benefits multiple audiences: public health leaders/ community managers, businesses and individuals.

  • Public health leaders/ community managers use CVKey to coordinate communications for reopening guidelines across their many constituents. They can inform businesses and venues to know what is required of them to reopen responsibly e.g. social distancing, masks, and disinfecting measures. Individuals receive health information such as COVID-19 symptoms, quarantining or where to go for testing.
  • Individuals check their health against COVID-19 risk factors and if any exist, they access hyperlocal information such as quarantine rules or testing sites. When individuals enter businesses and venues, they have confidence that others have done the same.
  • Businesses and venues stay current with reopening guidelines from their public health leaders/ community managers, operating their establishments responsibly. They also have a community-approved, unbiased mechanism for determining entry of individuals.

For the KU pilot, KU administrators will start with setting COVID-19 protocols for their research buildings using CVKey. They will ask the occupants of those buildings to conduct a daily health self-assessment so when they want to enter their research labs, building monitors can verify their access per KU’s COVID-19 protocols.

Private health self-assessment. Individuals can use our symptom checker to periodically assess whether they might be at risk of novel coronavirus exposure and what actions to take if they are. These questions are informed by guidelines from the CDC, Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic and are updated as scientists and policymakers learn more about the virus. This data is not shared without an individual’s informed consent.

COVID-19 symptom checker for individuals to assess their own health

Private health status. Based on the answers to one’s self-assessment, an individual receives a health status of blue, yellow, orange or red — visible only to the user. If he or she has COVID-19 symptoms, the individual sees a Yellow, Orange or Red health status with recommended next steps. If the individual is not at risk of COVID-19, he or she sees a Blue health status.

A sample health status of Yellow — visible only to the user — indicating next steps

CVPass. The CVKey app generates a CVPass — a unique, temporary QR code for individuals to use for accessing specific places that have opted-in to CVKey. The QR code displayed by the app provides the building monitor with a simple yes or no indication of whether the person’s health assessment meets the criteria to enter the building that day. No one sees an individual’s health status.

Privacy-protecting QR code-based CVPass

Identity and health data privacy. The self-assessment and related health information is strictly confined to the individual’s mobile device and is not shared outside the user’s mobile device. The data is not stored in the cloud. It is not shared without a user’s informed consent.

This technical design overview gives the overall technical design, and this privacy application specification details the privacy architecture that underpins the app suite we developed with input from outside experts.

Access guidelines. Individuals can see what access guidelines a particular business or venue may have set with guidance from their local public health officials. For example, individuals can see a mask or social distancing is required before they arrive at a specific venue.

See the COVID-19 guidelines of places you wish to enter

COVID-19 policy management. Public health officials and community managers use CVKey to consistently communicate and manage their COVID-19 policies. They can update them as conditions evolve, using the app like a ‘dimmer switch’ to help control the spread of COVID-19.

An administrative console lets pubic health leaders/ community managers set reopening requirements

A final note — a tale of two pandemics

Like many of you, the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless more African-Americans have given us pause. And the global protests have only underscored how different are the experiences of African-Americans living in the US.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a tale of two pandemics. Communities of color have long suffered higher rates of joblessness and poor health before the pandemic. During the pandemic, African Americans have endured higher rates of unemployment, and suffered death rates more than twice that of White Americans. Addressing these inequities will require our communities to work together.

Our mission at CVKey Project is to help communities reopen responsibly — so that when we are able to go outside freely again, we can build a better and more just society for all.

Brian “BAM” McClendon



CVKey Project

CVKey Project is on a mission to help communities responsibly reopen society during the COVID-19 pandemic without compromising privacy.