As of today, there are fourteen contact tracing apps in the continental United States. The most recent additions are in North Carolina, New York, and New Jersey. Each of these apps is interactive with several other state-sponsored contact tracing apps built around the Apple-Google API. The governors of New York and New Jersey announced the launch of contact tracing apps in their respective states with a joint press release, adding to a concentration of tracer apps along the eastern seaboard.
This growing concentration of interactive tracing apps is part of the intelligent design begun with launches in Delaware and Pennsylvania, with the intent that while the apps are state-based, the decentralized API used with the apps will allow for a regional collecive of tracing and alerts. We remind readers that the functionality of these apps depends entirely on the citizenry. It will be up to the public to determine the success of these apps: in order for the apps to succeed, they must first be downloaded, then used as directed, with bluetooth settings open, and with positive test results reported. As contact tracing is bitterly contested even at potential super-spreader events, providing this baseline safety precaution measure has fallen to the individual.
So far, the New York app has at least a quarter of million downloads, and New Jersey trails with roughly 65,000 downloads. The apps are available to anybody who lives, works, or attends college in New York or New Jersey.
In late spring of 2020, the first wave of contact-tracing apps in the US came out of Washington, North Dakota, Alabama, Virginia, Rhode Island*, and Utah*. A second wave of launches came in the summer from Pennsylvanyia, Delaware, Arizona, Nevada, and Wyoming. The autumn additions of North Carolina, New York and New Jersey bring the total number of state-sponsored tracker-apps up to fourteen.
As states are catching up to a public need for a centralized response to management of Covid-19, private administrators have been running the ball for months. At New York Presbyterian Hospital, an in-house app was developed for staff to use to self-monitor the presence of any covid-like symptoms. Pediatric care nurse Stanley Rosario spoke with pride about this proactive self-regulation, and the fact that nobody in his unit had been infected with the virus. At the same time he acknowledged the frustration of having the onus placed on an individual hospital to come up with a solution to a global problem: “It is sad to me that in the middle of this deadly crisis we don’t have a centralized federal response, and that our state and local governments are being forced to provide leadership on their own without a unifying standard and coordination from the Federal government.”
Future launches have been announced with (as of publication of this article) a limited number of US states. On September 16, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the expansion of the Western States Pact, which is a pilot project which will test the Exposure Notification Express mobile application pioneered by Google and Apple. This is an app-less functionality, and is only available when a Public Health Authority (PHA) supports it.
Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia also plan to adopt the Exposure Notification Express application. For Virginia, this will be in addition to the app they’ve already launched.
Several states are rumoured to have launches forthcoming, without official confirmation: Hawaii, Connecticut, and South Carolina.
Hawaii has a two-pronged approach in the hopper: AlohaSafe Story, which is a private digital diary to track one’s own movements and possible exposure, and AlohaSafe Alert, a notification system still in the works.
As the eastern net of Covid-tracking expands, Connecticut is expected to be next up with an app launch, potentially before the end of the month.
South Carolina has yet to present a unified statement about their approach with tracer apps. Statements have been released from separate offices from the state both confirming and denying plans. We have previously reported a confirmation of plans, however, until there is a consensus from the administration within the state, any plans should be considered TBD.
As ever, this is a fluid situation. We invite you to check back regularly for updates. We also encourage our readers to engage in the comments section below with any new or updated information.
*Rhode Island and Utah have both released centralized apps which do not use the Apple/Google API.