Alabama partners with Apple and Google for COVID-19 contact tracing

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FILE – In this photo illustration, the photographer uses a C-19 Covid Symptom Tracker on April 27, 2020 in London,England. (Photo by Sean Conway/Getty Images)

By Lance Crawford | WPMI

Health officials say one of the main keys to stopping the spread of COVID-19 is something called “contact tracing”.

Thursday, Alabama announced it is getting the latest and greatest tool that will hopefully assist in containing the virus before it can spread further.

Contact tracers are people who interview those who have the virus and those they may have infected. A recent report found that a single infected person could lead to nearly 60,000 additional infections over time.

But now contact tracing is going high tech. This week, Apple and Google launched software allowing public health authorities around the world to create mobile apps that notify people when they may have come in contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Public health departments, not Apple and Google, are responsible for building the contact tracing apps. Apple and Google’s software on smartphones allows them to build the software and push alert notifications to people who may have come in contact with a positive COVID-19 person.

Alabama is one of three states to jump on board first. The other states are North Dakota and South Carolina.

“Hopefully this will become an important tool in the tool kit to slow the spread of coronavirus By using what almost every Alabamian has in their pocket: a cell phone,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said.

The two tech giants say the identities of app users will be protected by encryption and other methods. Some, however, are skeptical the app will be effective because other apps have failed previously.

But this would allow a person to know if they have come in contact with a COVID-positive individual when they might otherwise not have known.

To be clear, even Apple and Google acknowledge these apps cannot replace human contact tracers. It’s just another tool to try and corral this virus as the country begins to reopen.

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