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Coronavirus Apps Show Promise but Prove a Tough Sell

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A contact tracing app.

An app developed at the University of Arizona notifies users on campus about their potential exposure to the coronavirus.

Credit: Kathryn Gamble/The New York Times

Despite pilot studies demonstrating that smartphone applications can slow Covid-19 transmission, buy-in from people and states is lacking.

Apple and Google's exposure-notification apps respect privacy by not tracking user locations, using Bluetooth to detect which phones have been within several feet of one another for more than a few minutes.

When a user receives a positive test result, the local health system supplies code via email, text message, or phone call to enter into the app, alerting anyone who was in proximity while the person was contagious.

A pilot program at the University of Arizona offered what may be the first example of an app slowing transmission; researchers estimated this fall the app sent alerts for up to 12% of transmissions.

Yet such apps are only available in about a third of U.S. states, hampered by privacy issues, little awareness or interest, poor access to quick testing, and a hodgepodge of government health authorities.

From The New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2020 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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