Within the past nine months, the Coronavirus pandemic has altered human life a great deal. In order to stop the spread of the pandemic, many Americans have been taking precautions such as: wearing masks in public and social distancing. In recent weeks Maryland has created a new precaution; a coronavirus contact tracing app.
The Maryland Department of Health officially launched the “MD COVID Alert” on Tuesday, November 10, 2020. The alert works by using bluetooth low energy technology in order to notify users who could have come in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.
When asked if she would download the app, Oakdale High School Senior Madison Snyder, replied, “I would download the app because it is a good strategy being used to help diminish Covid.”
The contact tracing app first notifies Marylander’s with an Apple or Android smartphone to opt-in to receiving coronavirus exposure notifications. Participants of the app with an Apple smartphone have to turn on exposure notifications on their phones settings and click Maryland as their region. Android users have to download the MD COVID Alert app in the Google Play Store. The app is completely voluntary and free of charge.
The app then assigns users a random ID number, which changes every ten to twenty minutes in order to ensure people’s identity remains confidential. Everyday users’ smartphone downloads random IDs associated with positive coronavirus tests and compares them to random IDs that the user has been in contact with.
If a participant comes in contact with another participant who has verifiably tested positive for the coronavirus, they will receive a notification. It is then advised that they get a coronavirus test, monitor their symptoms, and quarantine until it is confirmed they do not have the virus.
The main purpose of the app is to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Maryland. However, another goal of the app is to protect the privacy and personal information of the users. The Maryland Department of Health ensures that participants’ location is never tracked and no data from their smartphones is taken.
Even with the health departments promises of full security, citizens are still worried about the potential invasion of privacy. Suzanne Hadley, former nurse, explained, “There is definitely some invasion of privacy.”
She later commented that the app would be worth the potential invasion of privacy if it is effective in stopping the spread of the coronavirus: “If it turns into a positive benefit it may be worth it. The virus is definitely out of control and we need a place to curb it’s spread.”
The MD COVID Alert is new technology, therefore reports of its effectiveness have not yet been published. However, the Maryland Department of Health has a website for the contact tracing data: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/contact-tracing. For more detailed information on this new technology, readers can visit https://covidlink.maryland.gov/content/mdcovidalert/.