Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Coronavirus contact tracing apps used in the EU should protect privacy and be compatible enough with one another to track the spread of the virus across borders, the European Commission wrote to its members on Thursday.

Why it matters: Contact tracing — or tracking down those who have interacted with a virus patient and advising them to self-isolate — is seen as a key step, along with widespread testing, in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Where it stands: In countries like France, Norway and Poland, Bluetooth is the primary strategy for contact tracing apps, the EU reports. The organization says that contact tracing should not rely on location data.

  • The Czech Republic is piloting using users' locations to build maps of where they have spent significant time within the last five days. The tech is operating in three regions, per the EU.
  • In the U.S., Apple and Google have proposed technology that notifies users if they've come into contact with someone with the virus, without sharing location data with the government.
  • MIT researchers are building a system that matches Bluetooth signals emitted from an infected individual's smartphone over 14 days to other phones, to find who they've come into contact with.

What they're saying: “Mobile apps can warn us of infection risks and support health authorities with contact tracing, which is essential to break transmission chains. We need to be diligent, creative, and flexible in our approaches to opening up our societies again," Stella Kyriakides, the EU health commissioner, said in a Thursday press release.

Background: Large-scale testing, contact tracing, a health system that can withstand new patient surges, and a sustained pattern of lowered infections are all necessary for countries to relax quarantines, the European Commission advised on Wednesday.

  • The ability of competing apps to work together "would allow for a more effective warning of people concerned and a more efficient public health policy follow-up," the Commission said on Wednesday.

Go deeper: Contact tracing is the latest coronavirus red flag

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How "naked ballots" could upend mail-in voting in Pennsylvania

Trump signs in Olyphant, Penn. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ordered state officials last week to throw out mail-in ballots submitted without a required inner "secrecy" envelope in November's election, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The state of play: The decision went under the radar alongside the simultaneous decision to extend the time that mail-in ballots could be counted, but Philadelphia's top elections official warned state legislators this week that throwing out so-called "naked ballots" could bring "electoral chaos" to the state and cause "tens of thousands of votes" to be thrown out — potentially tipping the presidential election.

Commission releases topics for first presidential debate

Moderator Chris Wallace. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has selected what topics he'll cover while moderating the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden next week.

What to watch: Topics for the Sept. 29 debate will include Trump and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, economic policy, racism and the integrity of the election, the Commission for Presidential Debates announced on Tuesday. Each topic will receive 15 minutes of conversation and will be presented in no particular order.

Fed chair warns economy will feel the weight of expired stimulus

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Fed Chair Jay Powell bump elbows before House hearing on Tuesday. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday that the expiration of Congress' coronavirus stimulus will weigh on the U.S. economy.

Why it matters: Powell warned that the effects of dried-up benefits are a looming risk to the economy, even if the consequences aren't yet visible.

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