Virginia was the first U.S. state to use Apple and Google’s Exposure Notifications API in its anti-COVID initiatives back in August. More than two months later, a total of 10 states have now published their own contact tracing apps.
The two most recent were New York and New Jersey, both of which launched their services last week. While uptake may not have been quite as speedy as some would have liked, it shows that Apple and Google’s technology is finally gaining momentum.
According to CNBC, 21 percent of the U.S. population — or around 70 million in total — currently have access to a COVID-19 app. States or districts that currently offer contact tracing apps include:
Meanwhile, those that have either announced plans or are currently testing apps include:
Contact tracing for the win
Launching apps is, of course, just one part of the picture. People also need to download the apps in question. The New York City app was reportedly downloaded 250,000 times by Friday afternoon. New Jersey’s app was downloaded more than 63,000 times on Friday. What percentage of people need to use the app for it to be effective isn’t totally clear, but CNBC says that, “an installation rate as low as 15% could help suppress Covid-19 if governments are also using traditional contact tracing.”
The API uses Bluetooth Low Energy to anonymously track people’s interactions. Then it notifies users who have likely been exposed to infected individuals so they can take appropriate precautions, such as isolating themselves. Apple and Google do not build the apps themselves, but rather provide the tools for building them. Governments and health bodies must then use this (provided they want to utilize Apple and Google’s system) to build their apps.
Does your area have a contact tracing app? Let us know in the comments below.