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Photo: Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images

A team of Google veterans and others is launching the nonprofit CVKey Project to help communities restart amid the coronavirus pandemic. Its centerpiece, for now, is an app to let venues assess the health risk a particular person poses and whether to admit them.

Why it matters: There are a lot of ideas on how best to store data about coronavirus risk and exposures, but privacy concerns abound as well.

Details:

  • CVKey’s app asks people about any symptoms, among other questions. Based on their responses, it generates a QR code indicating whether they’re safe to enter a particular place, based on that location’s policies rather than any top-down criteria from CVKey.
  • However, the health data behind the QR code stays on the device, CVKey says, to ensure privacy. The app doesn’t store data in the cloud, nor does it access location data.
  • CVKey is a mostly volunteer effort, led by Brian McClendon, who helped start Keyhole (the company that became Google Maps), and with a lot of ex-Googlers lending their skills.

What he's saying: "We don't want to sacrifice our civil liberties or compromise privacy in the rush to reopen," McClendon said in a statement.

  • After leaving Google, McClendon led Uber's mapping effort from 2015–2017 before moving back to his native Kansas, where he is active in politics and ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Kansas secretary of state.

The big picture: Even assuming the privacy issues are taken care of, the criteria for determining whether someone is a risk or not remain in flux.

  • Health officials, for example, think — but don't know for sure — that those who have been sick with COVID-19 have some amount of immunity to reinfection.
  • And many people with the disease have few or no symptoms, meaning the app might grade them as low-risk even though they can still spread the disease.

What's next: McClendon said CVKey will adapt as knowledge about the coronavirus improves and also plans over time to add more apps and features, including exposure notification. The group is also soliciting additional volunteers.

Go deeper: Big Tech moves into government vacuum on coronavirus

Go deeper

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker
Updated Aug 30, 2020 - World

Berlin police break up protests against coronavirus restrictions

A protester confronting a police officer in Berlin on Aug. 28. Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Berlin police arrested 300 demonstrators after disbanding a protest Saturday over Germany's coronavirus restrictions as tens of thousands of participants refused to maintain social distancing, per the BBC.

Why it matters: Berlin's regional government tried to ban the protest earlier this week, citing concern for public health. Protesters successfully appealed the decision on Friday, though a court required demonstrators to observe social distancing.

Aug 29, 2020 - World

Europe fears second coronavirus wave as cases surge

A representation of the coronavirus at a Berlin protest against Germany's virus restrictions on Aug. 28. Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Several European countries have reported a jump in new coronavirus cases in recent weeks after a drop in cases over June and July, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Why it matters: The surge could indicate that Europe is on the verge of a second wave, though currently fewer people are dying from the virus and new cases have needed less medical treatment than those who got it in the spring, according to the Washington Post.

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