The field of cell phone repair expanded significantly during the past decade, as growing numbers of people began relying upon mobile phones on a daily basis. Recently, a new use for cell phones has gained the interest of public health agencies. Officials in several states recently unveiled a new voluntary free app. It seeks to expedite contact tracing. Its designers hope it will help limit the spread of COVID-19 during coming weeks and months.

One Illustration: Colorado

For example, on October 25th of this year, contact tracers in the State of Colorado began promoting a new app for Apple and Android phones. Developed in cooperation with Apple and Google, the app notifies interested phone owners if they have come into extended contact with other app users testing positive for the Novel Coronavirus. All notifications occur anonymously, without the release of identifying patient information. Contact tracers offer individuals who test positive for the contagious illness the option of revealing this information anonymously through the app.

Already, some half a million people have reportedly downloaded the new COVID-19 contact tracing app. Colorado public health officials estimate if only 15% of the population in the state uses this technology, infection rates will decline by as much as 8%. The app potentially offers faster notifications than human contact tracers supply.

Interstate Cooperation

Similarly, public health departments in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware recently announced their cooperation in the use of the COVID-19 contact tracing app developed by Apple and Google. Phone owners download the app for free, turn it on, and configure it to permit Exposure Notification. The app then contacts phones within the vicinity (containing an activated version of the app) using Bluetooth Low Energy systems.

The apps exchange unique codes. Each app compiles a list of codes received from the phones of nearby people. Once daily, it checks these codes against the anonymous roster of codes belonging to patients who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. An Exposure Notification issues if a phone remained within 6 feet of an opted-in Coronavirus positive individual for at least 10 minutes.

Infection Control Measures Still Apply

Public health officials urge the public to continue to engage in frequent hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing. The app does not substitute for taking these basic precautions. However, it may help speed up contact tracing in some situations!