App helps track movements, contacts amid pandemic
May 5, 2020 at 7:49 AM EDT – Updated May 5 at 7:49 AM
(CNN) – Contact tracing is the process of tracking down anyone who might have been infected by a person who was recently diagnosed with a virus like COVID-19. It helps identify those people so they can quarantine themselves and prevent further spread.
Now there’s an app for that. The idea for it came from bison trackers.
While contact tracers use a variety of methods to track down those who may have come in contact with a person infected with COVID-19, health officials in North Dakota have partnered with the creator of an app used to track bison to launch a new app called Care19.
In the past, contact tracing has been credited with slowing or stopping epidemics like ebola and SARS.
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Those who download Care19 will get a random ID number. The North Dakota coronavirus response website says the app will anonymously cache each user’s locations throughout the day.
If they test positive for COVID-19, the state says users will be given the opportunity to consent to provide their information to health officials to help in contact tracing and forecasting the pandemic’s progression with accurate, real-time data.
Apple and Google are developing new contact tracing technology using smartphones and Bluetooth technology to alert those who may have been close to someone infected.
There are limitations to the new technology. Users would have to opt-in and it’s not clear whether enough people will do so to make the effort worthwhile. People without smartphones wouldn’t get notified.
Researchers say the U.S. can’t safely reopen without significant amounts of contact tracing and testing.
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