App now answers COVID-19 questions in real time

As businesses, services and public spaces have gradually reopened on a regional basis amid the coronavirus pandemic, you may be confused about what’s safe to do right now. If you’ve got a smartphone, you can find out answers to your questions 24/7.

The City of Markham has added its COVID-19 Virtual Assistant to the Access Markham mobile app so it can provide reliable, consistent and accurate information about the novel coronavirus around the clock. The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store or by visiting markham.ca/MobileApp.

“This further reinforces our commitment to deliver exceptional services to our residents, ensuring you can get quick and accurate information to keep you safe,” says Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti. “As the economy continues to rebound, we need to stay informed on the latest rules, regulations and developments; and the Virtual Assistant is a new and powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19. It is ready to answer all your questions in real time, from any device, as we move together safely toward recovery.”

The Access Markham app also allows you to access your recycling and garbage collection schedule with personalized notifications, a What Goes Where tool, Markham Life magazine, interactive maps for walking and cycling, and more.

Markham was the first Canadian municipality to leverage IBM Watson™ Assistant for Citizens to respond to the pandemic when it launched the COVID-19 Virtual Assistant in late April. It draws information daily from the City of Markham, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ontario Ministry of Health and York Region Public Health websites. The Virtual Assistant is constantly learning and being trained through machine learning to improve answer quality with each user session. The City uses that artificial intelligence to adapt its communications to topics people are searching for most.

The City of Markham also offers a COVID-19 Telephone Assistant that can be reached at 1-833-926-0929. Markham’s Contact Centre continues to respond to inquiries about municipal services and programs at [email protected] and 905-477-5530, Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. For more information and updates about COVID-19 and affected City services, visit markham.ca/covid19.

The provincial government is reopening Ontario in three stages. All regions have advanced to Stage 2, which means shopping malls, hair salons, swimming pools, and bar and restaurant patios across the province are now open.  Premier Doug Ford hasn’t reached any decisions about Stage 3, which will allow most remaining workplaces and community spaces to reopen. While measures haven’t yet been announced, large public gatherings will continue to be restricted. The daily number of new COVID-19 cases is a crucial metric for determining the timing of Stage 3 but other factors, including the availability of hospitals beds, will also be considered.

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