10 genius new apps and tech tools to help you during a crisis

By Jennifer Jolly, Chief News Officer

Posted in: 

I’m normally not an anxious person. But there’s no such thing as normal right now, and suddenly all manner of routine concerns feel like the end of the world. 

For example: I keep waking up with a headache. It’s most likely from a mix of allergies and the spiked seltzer I’m getting in the habit of having every evening (quarantini anyone?). But rather than turn into a teetotaler, and roll around on a tennis ball to release some shoulder muscle tension, like a sane person … I run for the thermometer, dig out masks, and start mapping out which room we could seal off for full-blown coronavirus quarantine. 

I know I’m not alone feeling like life is spinning out of control during these shelter-in-place days. What helps most so far? Having a meaningful connection to the outside world for answers, reassurance, and someone to answer my most urgent questions. Here are 10 tech tools that keep coming to the rescue: 

1. HealthTap 

This telehealth site is offering a free virtual "COVID consult" with a U.S. based, board-certified doctor for anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms including cough, runny nose or fever. Sign up and connect with a doctor in less than a minute to get the answers and care you need immediately.

2. GetSetup 

This new site (free for now) teaches seniors fundamental tech-based life skills including filling prescriptions online, setting up online banking and bill pay, and enrolling in Medicare. Retired educators and tech industry experts teach the interactive courses in a way that lets older Americans learn-by-doing, versus just watching a video. As one of my friends explained, "it's essentially seniors teaching other seniors basic tech stuff." 

3. JustAnswer 

Hey, you’re already here (sort of…), so I might be preaching to the choir here. Why pay for an expert answer when you can get 30-bajillion results doing a search on the internet? If you have a burning question in need of a fast, professional answer without leaving the house – about immigration, custody issues, pet health, taxes, employment, teaching, couples counseling or just about anything else – this site is a savior. Rather than spin down the rabbit-hole of mass Googling and confusing community chat forums, JustAnswer lets you ask your question, get a solid answer from a proven expert, and move on with your life. If you’re not happy, you can resubmit your questions a dozen times over until you get the help you need. Sign up for a 7-day trial for $5, then it’s $30-$55 a month after that.

4. GetHuman

Shhh, I have a secret. I know how to get a person from Instacart on the phone. “GetHuman,” is a website that shows not often known phone numbers, with insider-advice (like the best time to call is 2:30 in the afternoon) to get an actual living, breathing person on a phone call to help you out. Just when you thought Covid killed customer service for good, GetHuman restores faith in actually getting a problem solved. Hmmm, go figure!

5. OpenTable

The restaurant reservation app recently expanded its software to let you choose between available shopping times slots at supermarkets and retailers near you. Rather than show up and potentially wait in line for hours on end, you can open the (free) app and reserve a time slot or join a waitlist.

6. Instok

This new (free) website lets you check product availability and prices in stores near you. Two teens in Texas created the site after returning home from college and saw their own parents struggling to find everything from milk to bread, and yes, toilet paper. As more people sign up for the site, there's potential for it to become a "Waze" for groceries with real-time updates and crowdsourced results.

7. TheSupplyFinder

This genius new site helps people find those in-demand essentials without leaving their homes. The Supply Finder (free) includes a live feed that updates in real-time to help you find things like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and even chocolate chip cookies (yes, I need them to survive, don’t judge) — the moment they're restocked. The site also gives you solid insider information on the best hours to find what you need the most, such as toilet paper on Amazon.

8. JustWatch

Life can’t be all Doomsday prepping. When you need a little downtime, and have NO IDEA what to watch, JustWatch (free) offers up personal recommendations for movies and TV shows. It’s available for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and over 100 additional platforms, and takes the guesswork out of binge-watching by consolidating all of your streaming services into a single app. If it sounds easy, that's because it is. Download the app for Apple or Google devices, create an account, then add your preferences. Want to watch more Ozark than Fleabag? Prefer Real Housewives over Unorthodox? Customize your show preferences and select which streaming services you currently use. Then sit back as JustWatch populates a list of movies and TV shows catered to you, along with recommendations from users with similar taste in television. 

9. Bandsintown

This free app (iOS, Android) typically lets you know about concerts and live music happening near you. Now that concerts are off the agenda for who-knows-how-long, the gig notification and discovery app helps you find musician-hosted livestreams via Twitch, Twitter and other ways to tune in. Sign up and it sends you notifications, so you can catch all your faves as they perform online. 

10. SnapCamera for Desktop

A network news producer surprise FaceTimed yesterday and caught me with no makeup on, my hair a hot mess and still wearing pajamas. Sure, it was two in the afternoon, but this is my WFH norm. Download this free camera filter to your desktop device and it instantly adds an AR layer of makeup, or other special effects, to make sure you're ready for that next video call. 

A shorter version of this story first ran in Jennifer’s column in USA Today