Apr 23, 2020 - Health

Americans' buy-in for smart phone app could be red flag for coronavirus contact-tracing

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Adapted from a KFF Health Tracking Poll, margin of error ±6 percentage points; Chart: Axios Visuals

A majority of Americans are willing to share their coronavirus test results with public health officials, but fewer are willing to download an app that tracks who they come in contact with, according to new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Why it matters: To lift social distancing measures without allowing the virus to spread rampantly again, we'll need to know in real time who has the virus, and who they could have potentially infected.

The big picture: Google and Apple have announced that they're working on a joint effort to notify people via smartphone — on an opt-in basis — if they've come into contact with someone with the coronavirus, but there's a real question of how many people would use the apps.

  • Half of those polled by KFF said they'd download an app that tracks who they come into contact with, and then alerts them if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • This number dropped to 45% if information about who they've come into contact with is provided to public health officials.
  • But people were more willing to download such an app after they were told it would allow them to return to parts of normal life.

The bottom line: "The mixed receptivity to using voluntary apps for contact tracing means that they can be an important tool to combat the epidemic but will not be a substitute for old-fashioned contact tracing," KFF president and CEO Drew Altman said.

Go deeper: Tracking epidemics from space

Go deeper

16 hours ago - Health

Protests against police brutality threaten coronavirus response

Protesters in Philadelphia on June 1. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Protests against police brutality have prompted the closure of coronavirus test sites across the country, including in Pennsylvania, Florida, California and Illinois, Politico reports.

Why it matters: This adds to concerns that the protests themselves create an environment in which the virus can easily spread, particularly if and when protesters aren't wearing masks or social distancing.

Senators plan bipartisan privacy bill for contact-tracing apps

Sen. Maria Cantwell. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senators are preparing today to introduce bipartisan legislation that would require commercial contact-tracing and exposure notification apps to only be deployed in collaboration with public health authorities.

Why it matters: Lawmakers are trying to put privacy safeguards in place as health officials look to use tech — including a Bluetooth-based system from Apple and Google — to help Americans learn if they've come into contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.

RNC officially plans to move 2020 convention to new city

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and their families on the final night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

The Republican National Committee is scrambling for a new convention host city after President Trump said North Carolina’s coronavirus restrictions will make Charlotte unworkable for the crowds he’s counting on.

Driving the news: The organization is still hoping to conduct the convention's "official business" in Charlotte, an RNC spokesperson said. But the part that most Americans think about the convention — the spectacle of speakers and the president accepting the Republican nomination itself — will be held in a different state with more relaxed COVID-19 laws.