Story at a glance
- Apple and Google have worked with several states to develop a platform for alerting users if someone in their periphery was diagnosed with COVID-19.
- As more states adopt similar platforms, newer smartphones already have the platform enabled.
- For older phones, users have to enable certain settings first.
The United States has been slower than other countries to adopt technology in the fight against coronavirus, partly due to Americans’ concern over privacy. In September, Apple and Google launched Exposure Notification Express, a new contact tracing platform, for both ioS and Android smartphones. Since then, more states have adopted that platform or launched their own. But the effectiveness of these applications depends on how many people are using them.
BREAKING NEWS ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
Not sure how? Here’s how to turn on notifications for potential exposure to COVID-19:
If you have an iPhone, you need to make sure you have the latest software — iOS 13.7 or later — in order to access the application. You can find it under Settings, where you can turn on Exposure Notifications. You can also share your own COVID-19 diagnosis through the app, which depends on voluntary reporting by users.
If you have an Android 10 or earlier, you will first need to enable your phone's Location and Bluetooth settings (Android 11 phones don't require the Location setting to be on.) If an app is available in your state or area, you can download it from the Play store, where public health authorities have customized a template app provided by Google.
As of Nov. 19, contact tracing apps are available for residents of these jurisdictions: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Wyoming.
A number of states, including Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington are working on their own apps in partnership with local universities and tech companies. Several individuals have also begun to develop their own models to track the level of risk involved in attending events and how well others in your area are socially distancing.
But experts have warned that contact tracing is only part of the coronavirus response strategy and depends on adequate testing to be effective. So while technology can help add an extra layer of protection and peace of mind, it can’t guarantee your safety.
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