COVID exposure warnings for iPhone, Android phones: Apps still await widespread adoption

Six months after the first COVID-warning mobile applications developed in an Apple and Google privacy-preserving system, a more coronavirus pandemic shortage exists.

Less than half of the US states offer Android and iOS exposure warning systems tools both companies announced last April which estimate the proximity of other people using anonymous Bluetooth beacons sent from phones with the same apps.

Many users in participating countries already have these applications to activate.

Many who opt in and later test positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus must reinsert the code given by the doctor in their applications.

The second voluntary move creates anonymous alerts for other device users who have come close enough to the positive user for enough time to avoid an infection, and require a COVID-19 test as approx. Bluetooth signals are not pinned down via GPS.

If you have kept silent your copy of one of these applications, you are not alone.

"Nobody has been alerted in my circle," said Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute in Baltimore and author of the Automated Touch Tracing Ethics book 2020.

But the launches of Android and iOS in 23 states are too early to grade - Alabama, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, Colombian, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wioming, and Virginia, Washington, Columbia, and Guam.

One reason: only lately have some barriers been eliminated.

Remember COVIDWISE in Virginia, the first such use in the United States.

Four months after its publication in August, the Virginia Department of Health has moved to a server operated by the Public Health Laboratories Alliance, which allows it to collaborate with other State programs.

Silver Spring, Maryland, says every U.S. app is now using this national network apart from Guam's.

VDH introduced an automatic device at the end of January to provide authentication codes following a positive result.

This led to the app's development by around one third, Speaker Melissa Gordon said; from February 11 to February 22 it increased to 3,205 from 2,396.

On February 2, VDH adopted the Apple "Express" context, which allows iPhone users to change device settings rather than install an app.

This device has almost doubled and added 890,027 Express activations to 1,007,584 downloads since February 22nd.

"It amounts to around 45% of our target population, or to over one of five (22%) of all Virginians, 80% of all 18-65-year-olds in Virginia," said Gordon, adding that the State system now has sent 22,508 exposure notice alerts.

The state's largest adoption seems to be the one-third Connecticut assault in January.

A study published in September by researchers in Oxford University and Google showed that adoption, along with standard touch monitoring, could decrease infections by 15 percent by just 15 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of cases was until recently too high to make contact helpful.

Kahn said: "The information is too far behind the spread when there is a very widespread community infection."

If vaccines advance and the number of cases begins to decline, these applications could provide a new opportunity to help.

It also gives public health professionals the ability to learn about these interactions – and to reconsider decisions such as enabling specific countries to create these applications.

"It's not the last time we'll see a pandemic," Kahn said.

"Seek out what's going to work the next time."

Rob Pegoraro is a technology writer based in Washington, D.C. E-mail Rob at [email protected] to pose a tech question.

Find him on @robpegoraro on Facebook.

The views and opinions shared in this column represent the views and opinions of US TODAY not necessarily.

This post was initially available on USA TODAY: COVID exposure apps: iPhone, Android adoption is still restricted