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COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, meaning it is transferred from one person to another via mouth, nose, eyes or other airways. That happens mostly through person-to-person contact, but can also occur when infected people cough or sneeze on objects that non-infected people touch before absent-mindedly putting their hands on their faces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"My father has an autoimmune disease that requires him to take immunosuppressant medication. Being in his late 60's with a compromised immune system, I'm trying my best to keep the communities around him and my family clean and safe," Immutouch co-founder Justin Ith said in a Monday statement.
The wristband was designed and developed in just seven days by three Seattle friends who also created Slightly Robot, a tech company that initially started making the bands to help people with repetitive behavioral disorders like nail-biting and skin-picking. Trichotillomania, for example, makes people want to pull out their own hair, but the watch helps prevent this by buzzing when users put their hands near their heads.
Ith and fellow Slightly Robot founders Matthew Toles and Joseph Toles saw a similar need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 germs.
"A problem the size of COVID-19 requires everyone to do their part, large or small," Toles said in a statement. "The three of us happened to be uniquely well equipped to tackle this one task and felt it was our duty to at least try."
The wristband sells for $50, and its accompanying app, which calibrates touching areas and lets users know how much they touch their faces every day, is free. The band is also water-resistant, has a 24-hour battery life, has an adjustable wristband and gives users the ability to pause buzzes to avoid making noise in quiet settings or while sleeping.
A Monday press release from Immutouch also details how the company aims to be transparent in its funding and development of the wristbands out of concern for "panic buying, pseudoscientific medical claims and profiteering."
The company has shared a "breakdown of material and operating costs" on immutouch.com/mission. It is also selling wristbands "as close to at-cost as possible in order to maximize availability to the public," according to the release.
Editor's note: This story was corrected to show Ith, Matthew Toles and Joseph Toles are all founders of Slightly Robot.