March 4, 2024

Now that the U.S. public health emergency is over, Americans in most states will no longer receive Covid exposure notifications on their smartphones.

Since 2020, nearly 30 states have used bluetooth system developed by apple and Google Tracks the spread of Covid infection and sends push alerts to any smartphone user who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

this Association of Public Health Laboratories The country server where the hosting system runs.

On Thursday, the group said “most states” stop using The exposure notification system after the Biden administration ended the public health emergency on May 11.

APHL added that it will no longer support key components of the system to help millions of americans Track their exposure and make decisions about isolating and testing for the virus.

In a joint statement, apple and Google The states’ decision to stop using the system was not addressed.

The tech giants told CNBC that the system helps public health authorities fight Covid in a privacy-preserving way, referring to how it can track infections without collecting users’ locations or identities.

californiaNew York, Massachusetts, washington, Virginia, new mexico and Colorado is one of the states that said it would no longer use the system after the U.S. emergency declaration ends.

“These systems are scheduled to close on the same day that the national COVID-19 emergency ends,” the California Department of Public Health said in a statement. statement late Thursday.

Several states use the system to create apps that smartphone users can download, such as CA notification and WA notice.

States also provide exposure notifications through built-in features of Apple and Google’s operating systems.

For this approach, state health departments must submit a profile to Apple and Google that includes their contact information and Covid guidelines. The two tech companies will use the document to set up a feature on the phone that users can activate to receive notifications.

On Friday, some Apple users who opted in to the feature received a push alert informing them that their iPhone “will no longer record nearby devices, and you will not be notified of possible exposure.”

One Apple user shared in a Twitter thread that their alert was “exposure notifications turned off by your health authorities.”

But as of Friday afternoon, not all Apple and Google users in states that stopped using the exposure notification system had received similar alerts.

Neither Apple nor Google have addressed why some users were alerted and others were not.

There is no clear count of how many Americans have activated exposure notification features on their phones or downloaded apps in the past three years.

virginia estimate More than 3 million users have downloaded the state’s app or used the notifications feature since the tools launched in 2020.

new mexico says “majority” of residents Activated the notification feature on their phone. According to the state, more than 1.5 million alerts have been sent to users who may have been exposed to Covid.

Washington said the state sent out more than 2.5 million exposure alerts through its app or notification features.

Researchers in Washington discover state’s notification tool An estimated 30 to 120 lives were saved And may have prevented around 6,000 Covid cases in the first four months after its launch in November 2020.

Despite these benefits, some Americans have been skeptical of Covid exposure notification tools.

A 2021 Report The U.S. Government Accountability Office said the public had expressed concerns about privacy. The public may not trust local governments and technology companies to handle sensitive health information, the report said.

The state’s decision to end Covid contact notifications is part of a wider shift in the way the country is dealing with the pandemic.

Health authorities eased Covid restrictions, such as wearing masks and social distancing, last year as more Americans got vaccinated and built up resistance to the virus.

That ultimately led to the end of the public health emergency, which phased out much of the funding and flexibility that helped expand Covid testing, insurance coverage, and access to care during the pandemic.

still more than 1,000 Americans According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people are still dying from Covid every week.