New Covid-19 tracing app created the for DC region

New+Covid-19+tracing+app+created+the+for+DC+region

Graphic courtesy of coronavirus.dc.gov

Ashley Redhead

Apple and Google recently partnered with the DC government to produce the DC COVID Alert Notice system (CAN). This contact tracing software enables public health authorities to contact and give guidance to anyone who might have contracted the virus. 

The DC CAN framework allows the user to choose how much information they would like to release. If someone comes into contact with positive cases in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Nevada, North Dakota, and Wyoming they will receive Exposure Notifications.  

The COVID-19 Exposure Notifications system is available on the Apple iOS 13.7 update as an opt in feature. It is also available on Google Play as a downloaded application on Android 6.0. 

In a statement from the DC government, “When a person tests positive for COVID-19, a public health representative from the DC Contact Trace Force contacts that individual to discuss their diagnosis, learn how they are feeling and understand who may have been exposed to them. 

During that conversation, the public health representative will ask if the person has DC CAN or provide instructions on how to access the system. Then the representative will offer to provide them with a unique eight-digit validation code to upload their random Bluetooth IDs after which exposure alerts will go out to all the other users that they may have been in close contact.”

The COVID-19 Exposure Notifications system works independently of an app on Apple devices, and is constantly working in the background tracing user IDs to IDs they come into contact with. It operates by generating a randomized ID for the devices that have opted into its services. 

To help ensure the user’s privacy, the ID is changed every 10-20 minutes so their location can not be tracked. The users’ phones work in the background, privately exchanging IDs and information via bluetooth. The phone will periodically check the list of positive COVID-19 IDs against the IDs it has come into contact with. 

If a user is a match they will receive a notification with instructions on how to proceed and the best way to ensure the safety of others from a public health official.

This COVID notification system will be viable with about 40 percent of the population in the DC area opted in. However, any level of participation in the exposure notifications will be beneficial and have a positive effect on society. 

Alex Jacoby, head of the Information Technology pathway, stated that, “if the software can get people to quarantine quickly after they’re exposed and before they develop symptoms, it could significantly reduce further transmission. Thanks to its thoughtful, privacy-protecting design, I don’t see any downside to at least trying it. Apple and Google should be congratulated for cooperating on this.” 

However, Jacoby points out that it is “untested and not as useful as masks.” 

Junior Kenadi Burnett, supports the software, “Any advancements in contact-tracing will help get Wilson students back to schools and prevent the further spread of COVID-19,” Burnett explains.

With the increasing concern for privacy in this current age, Apple and Google have implemented many different features to ensure user safety. For one, your location-privacy is always ensured with the use of randomized IDs. 

According to Apple, data will only be shared with public health officials if a user chooses to report a positive diagnosis, or if a user is notified that they’ve been in contact with someone who has reported a positive test. 

If a user has had contact with someone with COVID-19, the system will only share the day contact occurred, how long it lasted, Bluetooth signal strength (the signal strength of your phone in reference to other phones) at contact, and the type of report (self report, confirmed test, clinical diagnosis).

The Wilson administration has recently announced that they are reviewing the option of returning to school February 1.  With increasing talks of ending our prolonged distance learning phase, this app may assist in preventing further spread of COVID-19, equipping students and staff with a convenient tool.