Video: The future of exposure notifications

This week, I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar about the future of exposure notifications, the digital contact tracing systems used in about half of U.S. states. The webinar was hosted by PathCheck Foundation, a global nonprofit that works on public health technology—including exposure notification apps.

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Evaluating exposure notification apps: Expanded methodology behind the story

This week, I have a new feature out in MIT Technology Review. It’s an investigation into the usage rates and public opinion of exposure notification apps—those Bluetooth-enabled systems that promised to function as a method of digital contact tracing. You can read the story here; and for the CDD this week, I wanted to provide kind-of an extended methodology behind the piece.

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We need better contact tracing data

The majority of states do not collect or report detailed information on how their residents became infected with COVID-19. This type of information would come from contact tracing, in which public health workers call up COVID-19 patients to ask about their activities and close contacts. Contact tracing has been notoriously lacking in the U.S. due to limited resources and cultural pushback.

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Contact tracing: Too little, too late, no public data

Contact tracing, or the practice of limiting disease spread by personally informing people that they have been exposed, has been a major method for controlling COVID-19 spread in other countries, such as South Korea. But in the U.S. the strategy is—like every other part of our nation’s COVID-19 response—incredibly patchwork. We have no national contact tracing app, much less a national contact tracing workforce, leaving states to set up these systems on their own.

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I am once again asking: why are journalists doing this?

The COVID-19 At The White House Contact Tracker is attempting to trace over 200 contacts in connection with the President and his staff, after the President tested positive for COVID-19. The team behind it includes Benjy Renton, independent reporter on COVID-19 in higher education, Peter Walker, data visualization lead at the COVID Tracking Project, and Jesse O’Shea, MD, infectious disease expert at Emory University.

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