To boost the health of the restaurant industry, a downtown Charleston restaurant is investing in an infection risk monitoring app that could enhance the health of its patrons.
“Our industry is in trouble. I have friends in New York who are closing their doors,” Prohibition owner James Walsh says. “This is like climbing Everest, but we need to create a movement for safety.”
The as-yet-unnamed app being developed by Safe Pass Solutions, a new enterprise from a New York nutraceuticals executive, could theoretically function as a digital passport. In that capacity, it would allow restaurant owners to deny entry to users whose coronavirus test results, vital signs or personal behaviors didn’t meet their criteria.
“The technical capability is straightforward and has been successful in several countries,” an overview of the app explains.
But Walsh anticipates “the pushback would be tough” if he and fellow operators turned away people who didn’t participate in the online system, so he’s instead promoting the app as a way for potential customers to privately monitor their risk exposure and assess the risk they pose to others.
“We are empowering people with health information,” he says. “It’s kind of ridiculous we don’t own our health data the way we own our financial data.”
An app user would receive a score from 1-100 based on several variables, including how well she’d been sleeping, whether she’d lately spent much time indoors and her body temperature. Walsh hopes users would take the number into account before deciding whether to dine with their grandparents, for example.
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“If you’re willing to share your information with the people you care most about, we’re all better off,” Walsh says.
Prohibition has approached the City of Charleston about supporting the project, since its effectiveness rides on its widespread adoption.
“The Prohibition project is one of a number of innovative, homegrown COVID-19-related initiatives that the city is watching closely,” city spokesman Jack O’Toole says, confirming that officials are in an ongoing conversation with Walsh’s team about the app’s prospects.
Walsh clarifies the app is not related to the Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification API, which incited some local hubbub back in May. That app is currently restricted to half a dozen states. In South Carolina, Walsh says, “it kind of fell by the wayside.”
Still, Walsh is confident that digital technology could help control the spread of COVID-19, which is critical to the long-term success of the Charleston area hospitality industry. In the near future, containment is the determining factor for whether Prohibition brings back live music.
DJs were struck from the schedule when Prohibition, which formerly hosted weekly swing dance parties, earlier this month returned to business. Now instead of Lindy hopping, Walsh says, customers sit at their tables and wear their masks.
Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.