The new contact tracing software from Apple and Google is up and running now, but its use is not widespread. It works only in conjunction with official state apps, and most states aren’t yet participating.
USA TODAY found just 14 states with contact tracing apps in the Apple and Google app stores: New Jersey, New York, Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, Delaware, Virginia, Nevada, South and North Dakota, Wyoming, Alabama, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. The New York and New Jersey apps just launched.
Some states are testing the software now before deciding whether to go forward. Arizona and California are testing it now. “The purpose of the pilot is for the state, along with local health entities and academic partners, to study the efficacy of the app,” said Dr. Erica Pan, California’s interim state public health officer.
Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C., have announced plans to launch their apps, according to Google.
Meanwhile, several countries have grabbed hold of the Apple/Google software to create their own contact tracing apps as well, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.
The idea is that the Bluetooth signal from the phones send signals to others who have the apps. If you are diagnosed positive for the coronavirus and you inform the app, messages are then sent to everyone you came in contact with. “If you have been exposed, your app will notify you and give you further instructions,” Google says.
The New York app, for instance, says it lets you “contribute to the health and safety of your community by alerting others if you yourself test positive, without revealing your identity to anyone.”
The ability to use the Apple and Google software is built into the iOS and Google mobile operating systems. It’s opt-in, and you have to search for it.
As Google notes, “you choose to use the system,” which sends randomly changing IDs that get alerted every 10 minutes to and from phones, anonymously.