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NC needs more people to install COVID tracking app

Posted January 8, 2021 4:57 p.m. EST
Updated January 9, 2021 10:48 a.m. EST

As COVID cases reach record-setting numbers in North Carolina, many people are wondering if they’ve been exposed to the virus.

In September, the state Department of Health and Human Services launched the SlowCOVIDNC app. It uses a cellphone to alert users if they have been within a certain distance of someone who tested positive for the virus.

So far, 625,000 people have downloaded it, which is low number considering almost seven million people in North Carolina are over the age of 18, and the vast majority have a smartphone.

That’s a problem. For the app to work, people have to use it.

The medical director at Orange Family Medical Group said another problem with the app is that users must update their status.

"People have to self-report if they become positive to the app, and then that app will look at what the numbers are, what tokens were near it within the last 14 days," said Anita Mary Skariah, explaining that the tokens in the app represent people you may have been near, who later tested positive for the virus.

Skariah said she believes the app could be an effective tool if used. So far, 547 people have reported a positive test on the app, which resulted in 1,643 exposure notifications being sent. Compare that to the more than 600,000 cases documented in North Carolina.

Much of the apprehension for signing on appears to involve privacy concerns. State leaders stress the app does not track personal information and does not use geolocation or GPS data.

The app could help those who may contract the coronavirus but show no symptoms.

"The problem with this disease, a lot of cases, people don’t, aren’t aware that they’re infected, they’re asymptomatic or they’re, pre-symptomatic meaning a couple of days before they actually manifest symptoms they have and they’re infected," said Skariah.

The app works through Bluetooth, so that has to be turned on. It also provides the state’s latest coronavirus statistics, from the number of cases to tests to hospitalizations, including a county-by-county searchable map.

So far, 381,285 Android users have downloaded the app, while 244,166 Apple users have downloaded it.

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