University Of Arizona Testing A COVID-19 Contact Tracing Mobile App

Published: Wednesday, May 27, 2020 - 3:03pm

The University of Arizona’s Campus Reentry Task Force is holding weekly briefings to update the public on its plans for the fall semester. Officials discussed Wednesday using a mobile app to expand the university's contact tracing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on its campus. 

Contact tracing is used to alert individuals who have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. 

The app, which is being developed by COVID Watch, uses Bluetooth signals to keep an anonymous record of when users come in close proximity to each other. If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to report the diagnosis and the app would send exposure alerts to other users that tells them what day they were exposed to the infected individual and what they should do next. 

“The benefit of using this technology is it allows us to really scale up," said Joyce Schroeder, department head and professor of molecular and cellular biology who serves on the task force. "So instead of a person calling a person calling a person calling a person,  phones can contact as many phones as they were in contact with.” 

Schroeder said the app will be voluntary, but she hopes many will chose to use it.

"The more people on our campus who use this technology, the safer we are all going to be," Schroeder said. 

COVID Watch told KJZZ that it will be available for free to students. 

Associate professor and program director of epidemiology Kacey Ernst, who also serves on the task force, said she will lead experiments to test the accuracy, usability and acceptability of this app over the summer. 

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