Pennsylvania taps Apple, Google system for COVID-19 contact tracing app

The Pennsylvania Department of Health plans to deploy a new mobile app in September that will assist state officials with COVID-19 contact tracing, according to an Aug. 18 Trib Live report.

The state partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania and app developer NearForm to design the Covid Alert PA app. The app uses Apple and Google’s exposure notification system, which takes Bluetooth signals from smartphones to track when two phones come in close proximity without collecting the location of the devices or identification of the individuals.

The Covid Alert PA app will support the existing work of case investigators and contact tracing workers, said Rachel Levine, MD, Pennsylvania secretary of health, according to the report. The state has hired more than 1,200 contact tracers and public health professionals to serve as case investigators and the new app will help fill gaps.

“Sometimes it is difficult to recount every step in your day and who you may have spent more than 15 minutes with in close contact,” Dr. Levine said. “That’s where Covid Alert PA comes in.”

If one of the app’s users tests positive for COVID-19, the app then sends an alert to all other phones with the app that came in close contact of the individual to inform them that may have been exposed to the virus. Pennsylvania officials are also working with officials in other states to ensure the app works across state lines.

On Aug. 5, Virginia became the first U.S. state to launch a COVID-19 tracking app built with Google and Apply’s joint exposure notification system.

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