COVID Exposure Apps Are Headed for a Mass Extinction Event
States won't act to replace these apps
Within weeks of COVID-19 shutting down the world in 2020, teams at archrivals Apple and Google partnered on a rare joint project. They developed a way to log people’s proximity using Bluetooth chips in iPhones and Android phones, enabling the creation of apps that let someone who tested positive for the virus to anonymously notify fellow users whom they'd been near in the preceding few days. Those alerted to the exposure could then isolate, test, and quarantine, hopefully slowing the spread of COVID.
COVID is still around, but the grand experiment in semi-automated contact tracing by smartphone is now nearing its end in the U.S., following similar shutdowns in many other countries as concerns about the virus have eased.
On May 11, the Biden administration will stop paying for the two cloud servers that underpin the U.S. system and power exposure-tracking apps offered by individual states. States will now have to boot up their own servers, and in many cases redesign their apps, if they want to keep the alerts flowing. Though a few, including California, are considering the idea, it remains to be seen whether any will follow through. California's Department of Public Health did not provide comment for this story by publication time.
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