The Alabama Department of Public Health in partnership with the University of Alabama Birmingham launched a mobile application to assist the state in contact-tracing efforts of coronavirus cases. The app is currently available to download on iOS and Android.
Contact-tracing is the process of tracking the individuals that a person has come into contact with while infected with coronavirus, but not showing symptoms. This is an important tool for public health officials to track the spread of the Coronavirus.
The process can be costly, and time consuming as it requires getting a list of places a person has gone as well as individuals they have come into contact with. This process helps identify who needs to be tested for the virus.
The app, developed by a third-party developer in conjunction with UAB and ADPH, uses a phone’s Bluetooth connection to exchange encrypted keys between devices when they are within a certain distance of each other.
The key is stored for a period of time and contains no identifying information of the user of the source device. If a user of the app tests positive for the virus they can self-report the positive test in the app.
This data is then sent to others who have come into contact with your devices unique key, alerting them that they have potentially been exposed to the virus without releasing any personal information about the individual who tested positive for the Coronavirus.
ADP hopes that this application will assist them in contact-tracing, a vital part of controlling a virus with community spread.
The application was funded with $20 million of the CARES Act funding that the state received from the federal government. The app was initially designed to assist Universities in Alabama to safely resume in-person classes. It was then expanded to allow members of the public to utilize the application.
The app was made possible through a partnership between Google and Apple that added a system for contact tracing in each other’s mobile operating system. The program allowed states to either create their own application or utilize one created by the two companies.
The two companies have said that the software used to allow this will be removed after the Coronavirus pandemic.
Out of the 50 states, Alabama was one of two that opted to create their own application utilizing the technology.
The State of Virginia, whose app launched earlier this month, utilized a system that required a code provided by the state’s department of health to report a positive Coronavirus test. This approach is expected to lower the rate of false reports of positive test results.
Some other states are utilizing GPS data instead of the technology provided by Google and Apple to assist in their contact-tracing efforts.
Scientists believe that contact-tracing applications are a valuable part of an overall contact-tracing strategy, and even with small adoption rates by citizens they have the ability to drastically increase a state’s ability to manage the Coronavirus.