Fewer than half of U.S. states offer Android and iOS tools for the “exposure notification” system the two companies announced last April, which estimate other people’s proximity via anonymous Bluetooth beacons sent from phones with the same software.
Most people in participating states have yet to activate these apps. Those who do opt in and then test positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 must opt in again by entering a doctor-provided verification code into their apps.
That second voluntary step generates anonymous warnings to other app users who got close enough to the positive user for long enough — again, as approximated from Bluetooth signals, not pinned down via GPS — to risk infection and to need a COVID-19 test.
So if your copy of one of these apps has remained silent, you’re not alone.
“Nobody in my circle has gotten the phone alert,” said Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore and editor of a 2020 book on the ethics of digital contact tracing.
Virginia rolled out COVIDWISE last summer (Spring? Time has lost meaning.) to some fanfare but limited adoption that never really improved. Earned media, some billboards and other advertising spots pushed it to a degree, but then nothing.
Having been tested for COVID twice, at neither point was I given any literature or told about the app by the two different facilities. How hard would it have been to work with localities or companies to include a note in utility or other bills?
So adoption has been low, and probably mainly among a core audience taking COVID most seriously, so those who are more likely to be following physical distancing recommendations and trying to limit their exposure to begin with. Making the apps even more useless.