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Every strategy for releasing Covid-19’s vise-grip on daily life starts with identifying cases and tracing their contacts — the laborious task of public health workers tracking down people who have crossed paths with a newly diagnosed patient, so they can be quarantined well before they show symptoms.

That typically takes three days per new case, an insurmountable hurdle in the U.S., with its low numbers of public health workers and tens of thousands of new cases every day. Existing digital tools, however, using cellphone location data and an app for self-reporting positive test results, could make the impossible possible, the authors of a new analysis argue.

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  • Interesting concept and much more ethically defensible than the top-down approach favored by the government. I have a couple of questions: (1) location data by cell phone accuracy poor for this type of contact tracing (accuracy of 3ft or less is needed, cell phone accuracy can be an order of magnitude, at best, worse). How do you and the contact tracers manager the numerous false positives? Will the false positives (including unneeded use of testing materials) defeat many of the positives of your approach? (2) What do you do if someone who is suspected of being in contact (remember, it’s likely they are a false positive) does not get tested? (3) Location data is never really anonymous. De-identified information, with enough data points and effort (easily done by the government or a sophisticated surveillance company), can be identified. How are you dealing with this? (4) how do you protect patients from punitive behavior by governments who subpoena your records and work to identify patients who have self-reported and their contacts?

  • As the virus is now in community-spread mode, even such tech models will fall short. For those in isolation / shelter at home: record your few activities for necessities : date & time, location, cashier name (on credit card slip), and description of the odd-ball not respecting 2 meter distance. As time goes : keep the most recent 3 weeks (2 + 1 just in case). Tracking would be SO much quicker and more complete if everyone (not working at an office or other place) participated in this easy chore. I have been doing this since March 6, easy to find track sheet is on my desk.

  • are you aware that the israeli ministry of health has developed and is offering an application (Ha Magen = The shield) that informs you of points of intersection found between you and coronavirus patients?
    you receive a notification in these terms (my phone today): “According to data collected thus far, starting from (day you downloaded the app) at (time) no points of intersection have been found with coronavirus patients”

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