Americans will no longer receive COVID risk notifications by phone in most states


Americans in most states will no longer receive covid contact information on them smartphones Now that the U.S. public health emergency is over.

As of 2020, about 30 states have used a bluetooth system developed by Apple And Google to track the spread of covid infection And send push alerts to any smartphone user who has come in close contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus.

association of public health laboratories Hosted the national server on which the system ran.

On Thursday, the organization said “most states” stopped using Risk notification system after the Biden administration ended the public health emergency on May 11.

APHL said it would no longer support key components of the system, which was intended to help millions of americans Determine their risk and make a decision about virus isolation and testing.

In a joint statement, Apple And Google Did not address states’ decisions to discontinue using the system.

Tech giants told CNBC the system helped public health departments fight Covid in a way that preserves privacy, explaining how it tracks infections without collecting users’ location or identity .

CaliforniaNew York, Massachusetts, washington, Virginia, new Mexico And colorado are among states that said they would no longer use the system following the end of the US emergency declaration.

“These systems were timed to shut down on the same date that the nation’s COVID-19 emergency ends,” the California Department of Public Health said in a statement. statement Thursday late night.

Several states used the system to create apps that smartphone users could download, such as notify ca And notify wa,

States also provided risk notifications through a built-in facility On operating systems from Apple and Google.

For that method, state health departments had to submit a configuration file to Apple and Google with their contact information and Covid guidance. Both the tech companies will use the file to set up a feature on the phone that users can activate to receive notifications.

On Friday, some Apple users who had opted into that feature received push alerts informing them that their iPhones “will not log nearby devices and you will not be notified of the potential risk.”

One Apple user shared in a Twitter post that their alert said, “Your health authority has turned off exposure notifications.”

But not all Apple and Google users in states that have stopped using the exposure notification system received similar alerts as of Friday afternoon.

Neither Apple or Google addressed why some users received alerts while others did not.

There is no clear tally of how many Americans have activated the exposure notification feature on their phones or downloaded apps over the past three years.

Virginia Guess over 3 million users have downloaded the state’s app or used the notification feature since those devices launched in 2020.

New Mexico said “majority” of residents Activated the notification feature on his phone. According to the state, more than 1.5 million alerts were sent to users who may have been exposed to Covid.

Washington said the state generated more than 2.5 million exposure alerts through its app or notification feature.

Researchers in Washington found that the state’s notification tools Estimated 30 to 120 lives saved and possibly prevented around 6,000 Covid cases during the first four months after its launch in November 2020.

Despite these benefits, some Americans are skeptical of COVID risk information tools.

A 2021 report The US Government Accountability Office said the public expressed concerns about privacy. The report states that the public cannot trust both local governments and technology companies to handle sensitive health information.

The state’s decisions to end Covid exposure notifications are part of a broader shift in the way the country is responding to the pandemic.

health department last year loosen covid restrictions More Americans vaccinate against the virus and promote social distancing, such as masking and social distancing.

This culminated in the end of a public health emergency, which ended the funding and flexibility that helped increase Covid testing, insurance coverage and access to care during the pandemic.

however, more than 1,000 Americans According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, people are still dying from Covid every week.

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