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New York state joined forces with New Jersey and Connecticut to roll out a tri-state contact tracing program with the aim of preventing a future spike in novel coronavirus infections, according to NBC New York.
The initiative will be supported by $10.5 million in funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, and is currently under development in collaboration with researchers from Johns Hopkins University. For context, contact tracing refers to public health workers’ efforts to track down lists of people who have come into contact with coronavirus infected patients as soon as possible so that those who have been exposed can self-isolate.
The program could help reduce additional coronavirus outbreaks in the hard-hit New York tri-state area — which would go a long way toward mitigating the spread of the novel virus throughout the US. Identifying individuals who have come into contact with someone infected with the novel coronavirus and having them self-isolate can mitigate the spread of the highly contagious virus.
This is particularly important in hard-hit states such as New York, where 263,460 coronavirus cases exceed the more than 213,000 cases reported across the entirety of Spain, the second-hardest hit country behind the US in terms of total coronavirus cases at the time of writing, per The New York Times. The states’ contact tracing initiative could help prevent further hotspots from cropping up and wreaking havoc across the US, as infected patients will be withheld from traveling across state borders and potentially spreading the virus.
We think government officials would be wise to leverage the coronavirus-tracking feature developed by Apple and Google, as their massive reach could have a large impact on contact tracing initiatives across the nation. Tech titans Apple and Google recently formed an alliance to embed a coronavirus-tracking feature into their respective operating systems — iOS and Android — with the hopes of making public health authorities’ tracing efforts more effective by reaching more people.
Android and iOS respectively power 86% and 14% of smartphones worldwide in 2020 per the IDC. And with an estimated 72% of US consumers currently owning a smartphone, Apple and Google’s alliance has the potential to reach a massive portion of the US population. Further, Apple and Google’s tool could expedite the process of gathering and exchanging coronavirus patient and exposure information, and could play an important role in determining the success of NY’s contact tracing initiative, should the state government tap the duo to leverage their extensive reach.
For example, traditional contact tracing methods can take three days for every new case, per STAT, and during this days-long window, infected individuals could still be spreading the novel coronavirus. If the tri-state initiative leverages the duo’s tool and finds that it’s successful in mitigating the further spread of the virus, the contact tracing initiative could act as a roadmap for the implementation of similar programs across the US.
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