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Coronavirus contact tracing could get invasive, but may be necessary

The fundamental question people are asking now involves technology, and how it will be used to allow life to return to normal after the U.S. gets by ‘Wave #1’ of the coronavirus.

Contact tracing is the effort undertaken by public health officials to locate cases.

In theory, if a person tests positive, health officials have to trace the contacts that person had — mandating quarantine if they had more than ‘passing contact’ with them to slow the spread of the virus.

A team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security explained that creating those conditions would mean testing anyone with symptoms, identifying and isolating infected persons and then tracing “all close contacts of each and every case.” According to their estimate, that level of intervention would require a local and state public health workforce “on the order of 100,000 newly engaged workers.”

That’s where technology comes into play.

Different applications are already being used in countries around the world, largely taking advantage of GPS and Bluetooth technology as well as the ubiquity of cellphones. Apple and Google say they could have a solution ready to go by mid-May.

But it begs a fundamental question about privacy and security: How much of your personal information will be embedded in these new apps, or tracking mechanisms if they are baked into smartphone operating systems.



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