contact tracing

(Sept. 11, 2020) Although Gov. Larry Hogan announced during a press conference last Tuesday that Maryland will collaborate with Apple and Google on a contact tracing app to track covid-19 exposure, there is no timeline for when that app will be available, according to Patrick Mulford, external affairs director for the state department of information technology. 

“There are many backend decisions that still need to be made about the application,” Mulford said. “We will need to put a marketing effort together to explain the application to Marylanders and to get a higher adoption rate.” 

According to Google, the Exposure Notification System will give each device a random ID that is changed every 10-20 minutes so it can’t be used to identify the user or the user’s location. 

The user’s phone will periodically check all random IDs associated with covid-19 cases to see if any cases came near the user. This is done through Bluetooth and does not reveal where either device is located. 

If the user’s device comes near a positive case, he or she will receive an exposure notification and public health instructions. 

User identity is not shared with other users, Google or Apple. The notifications can be turned off at any time. 

Mulford said the app will be free to the public and Google and Apple will not make a profit. 

“This application enhances contact tracing and there has been proof in other countries and states that Exposure Notification does help keep others safe and will save lives,” Mulford said. 

He said the app can work with other states, whether or not it is using the same app.  

Aside from the app, 15 public health nurses are acting as contact tracers for Worcester County. They interview people ho have tested positive to discuss symptoms, medical care and date of onset. 

They also ask about social contacts to determine who might have been exposed to the virus. Contact tracers then call those who might have been exposed, but do not reveal who the identity of the person who tested positive. 

Contacts are instructed to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms. Case managers will check-in during quarantine to assist with any needs, such as access to groceries. 

Caller ID for a contact tracer should read “MD COVID.”

Elizabeth covers Worcester County issues for Ocean City Today. In 2018, she graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa with a bachelor of arts. After graduation, Elizabeth spent a year with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Wilmington, Delaware.

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