Contact Tracing Feature Integrated into iOS and Android

Nico Payne

Apple and Google’s COVID-19 contact tracing app has been updated. People can now opt-in to the COVID-19 exposure notification system without having to download an app. The system uses Bluetooth instead of an app, and it’s intended to improve the adoption of the system and effectivity.

If you’ve gone into the settings of your phone recently, you might have noticed a new option. ios and android users will now be able to opt into a new system to receive a notification to people at risk for exposure to coronavirus.

Using Bluetooth, the app records when two or more smartphones come within a certain distance of each other. So if someone contracts the virus, anyone they came in contact with will get a notification that they may have been exposed.

But will Riverside County be adopting this new system and using it in the fight against coronavirus? NBC Palm Springs spoke with the county’s director of contact tracing to find out.

“We have some very clear protocol that we follow for contact tracing and so we do that by having direct contact with the individuals and doing follow up calls and utilizing software that we’ve worked with to get approval through the county, and that is not something that at this time the county has decided to utilize or is exploring using,” said Marshare Penny, Director of Contact Tracing with Riverside County.

The county has had a problem with contact tracing, mainly with people not responding, last week we saw over 12,000 new recoveries added to the county’s total. But those were people who couldn’t be reached after 45 days, and officials just assumed they no longer had the virus.

“They’re the ones that are examining that data as we speak and they look at that recovery data. we’re still getting a lot of cases and we do come across some challenges still with individuals who are positive for COVID, feeling comfortable to share their contacts,” added Penny.

Kevin spelled, an assistant professor at MIT, has been working with apple and google on the contact tracing system, he says that if widely adopted, it could be a valuable tool against not just coronavirus but all future pandemics.

“The single most important aspect is that it has to be distributed. it has to be decentralized if built correctly this could be a very powerful defense against all pandemics.”

Some states have been using the app version, but this new version means health agencies won’t need to build a contact tracing app of their own, again at this time, Riverside County is not including this feature as part of their contact tracing.

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