The tech giants will allow state health agencies to use the software without creating a customized app
Apple and Google said Tuesday they’re expanding coronavirus warning software so that state health agencies can participate without having to create customized apps.
The new option, called “exposure notifications express,” removes one of the key barriers to adoption that led to a slow start to the software, which can warn people when they come in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. So far, only six U.S. states have created apps that work with Apple and Google’s software.The software, which is built into the operating systems on Google’s Android phones and Apple’s iPhones, uses Bluetooth to tell whether people have spent significant time near one another. If a participant in the exposure notification program tests positive for the coronavirus, that person’s close contacts may get a notification.
“I would say this is an improvement,” said Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Kahn, who has been studying the use of technology to fight the virus, said states have been hamstrung by indecision around which technology vendors they should use to build their apps, among other issues. He said this may help speed up adoption, but shouldn’t be considered a magic bullet. “It’s still not probably serving all the interests that public health would want, but it’s better than nothing,” he said.