Apple and Google said today that 25 US states and territories are exploring the use of the Bluetooth contact tracking solution. That’s part of why they’re rolling out Exposure Notifications Express, a way for public health professionals to quickly launch COVID-19 contact tracking apps. Exposure Alerts Express focuses on the adoption of US states today, not national governments, said Android VP for engineer Dave Burke to reporters.
“Our primary focus right now is on the United States. We’re really challenged with how we can speed up the adoption of Exposure Notifications Express for the United States. We’re obviously happy to talk to countries that are interested, but so far we have really focused on wrapping up the United States, “he said.”
Apple and Google today shared the same number of countries applying for adoption – more than 20 – as they did in May.
This is the Phase II extension of the Apple-Google contact tracking application. Prior to today, public health officials were able to launch apps using the Apple-Google approach to low-energy Bluetooth exposure alerts, but required the help of a developer. In Phase II, iOS and Android smartphones automatically log COVID-19 exposure alert events without having to download an app. Exposure Alerts Express Features will be introduced today as part of an iOS update and later this month for Android users.
At launch, Maryland, Nevada, Virginia and Washington DC will use the Exposure Notifications Express. Since its launch this spring, only six states have chosen to use the Apple-Google contact tracking solution.
In April, a team of researchers from Oxford University found that approximately 60% of the population must use a contact tracking app for it to be effective. Recent work by one of the professors, Christophe Fraser, however, reveals that manual contact tracking in combination with lower levels of app adoption can reduce the number of deaths and infections.
“We’ve been exploring different levels of app adoption for some time in the UK, and we’m delighted to see that contact tracking apps in the UK and US have the potential to reduce the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in a meaningful way. “For example, we estimate that a well-staffed manual contact to track labor combined with 15% admissions can reduce infections by 15% and deaths by 11%,” Fraser said in a statement.
Since contact tracking programs appeared at the beginning of the pandemic, a number of countries that were early adopters of such apps have struggled to reach adoption levels of 10-20%.