In a significant development, the state of Virginia has launched its first contact tracing app for the Wuhan coronavirus in the United States using a new technology from Google and Apple Inc.
With this app, COVIDWISE, Virginia is hoping to help it catch newer cases faster than before; one hurdle facing it is boosting the time frame in getting test results. Once this hurdle is overcome, the effectiveness of the app will be significantly boosted.
The app installed in smartphones exchanges Bluetooth signals to keep an anonymous list of close encounters. It then allows people who catch the virus to notify those contacts without anyone revealing their identity.
“This is a way we can all work together to contain this virus,” said Democratic Governor Ralph Northam said in a televised briefing. “No one is tracking you. None of your personal information is saved.”
Around three more states are nearing the launch of similar apps, with an aim to ease the burden on underfunded manual contact tracing efforts.
The U.S. lags behind similar efforts in Europe, where millions of people across 11 territories have already downloaded smartphone tracker apps, over the last two months, using the specialized Apple-Google Bluetooth technology.
Earlier efforts in the U.S. saw the release oc contact tracing apps, which experts described as being more privacy-invasive since they relied on locating the user by location, as opposed to Bluetooth transmissions.