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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Photo: Apple and Google

Apple and Google are expanding their digital coronavirus exposure notification system so that it can notify people without the regional health authority needing to create a separate app, potentially expanding the adoption of the technology.

Why it matters: The companies say 25 U.S. states and territories are exploring digital contact tracing options. Just six have already launched apps.

Details: The "express" version of the technology, announced Tuesday, pushes a message to iOS and Android users in participating states letting them know that they can opt in to exposure notifications even if authorities in their area haven't built an app.

  • As with the app-based system, the express version uses Bluetooth to identify which phones have been in close proximity for a defined period of time — data that can then be used to notify people that they may have come in contact with an infected person. Public health authorities still get to set the parameters for what constitutes an exposure.
  • iOS users can get notifications without an app. On Android, users will be sent to the Google Play Store to download one that Android can generate on the fly if there isn't already an app available locally.
  • As with the regular version, the system doesn't collect location data or share identity information with other people, health authorities, or Apple and Google.

The big picture: Apple and Google said the express version is primarily aimed at boosting adoption in the U.S., though other countries could use this approach as well.

  • More than 20 countries have already launched apps using the Apple-Google technology, including Germany, Switzerland and Japan, the companies noted.
  • A number of states and territories are expected to support the new express option, including Maryland, Nevada, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

What they're saying:

  • Apple and Google said in a joint statement, "Exposure Notifications Express provides another option for public health authorities to supplement their existing contact tracing operations with technology without compromising on the project’s core tenets of user privacy and security."
  • Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said, "Exposure Notifications Express will help to save lives, greatly enhance our contact tracing operation, and advance our statewide COVID-19 recovery.” 

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dec 9, 2020 - Health

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine data hacked from European Medicines Agency breach

A nurse in London prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 8. Photo: Frank Augstein/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

BioNTech and Pfizer announced Wednesday the European Medicines Agency was targeted by a cyberattack and regulatory documents related to their coronavirus vaccine submission were accessed.

Why it matters: The EMA is currently working to authorize coronavirus vaccines for use in European Union member states, and said it is launching an investigation into the attack. The hack is the latest in a series of attacks and warnings about cyber threats against vaccine-producers and public health agencies.

Dec 9, 2020 - Health

Pennsylvania governor tests positive for coronavirus

Gov. Tom Wolf at a press conference on Oct. 1. Photo: Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group/Daily Local News via Getty Images

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), 72, tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, and is experiencing no symptoms as he self-isolates, he tweeted Wednesday.

The big picture: Current coronavirus hospitalizations and cases are skyrocketing in Pennsylvania, as well as in many states across the U.S., per the COVID Tracking Project. Wolf tweeted on Tuesday that "hospitalizations are reaching critical levels" in his state.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas — Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements.
  3. Politics: Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19 — Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health."
  4. Economy: Report: World's 10 richest men doubled wealth during pandemicAmerica's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — French parliament passes COVID vaccine passport legislation.
  7. Variant tracker