While states are hoping to open up their economies, medical experts have pointed to contact tracing as a method for controlling the spread of COVID-19 when lockdown measures are lifted. This strategy seeks to locate those who have tested positive for the virus and retrace their movements in order to find out who they may have come into contact with. It is a method that has been implemented in the past to fight other diseases such as HIV and Ebola, and has been used in countries like China and South Korea to successfully stop the spread of the Coronavirus.
So far, two different strategies for gathering this information about COVID-19 patients’ contacts have become the most prominent. The first is an effort by technology companies, specifically Apple and Google, to build a program where users can report if they have been diagnosed with the virus. The program would then notify anyone who has come within six feet of that person, by tracking their cell phones with GPS and Bluetooth technology. The second strategy, employed mostly by state governments, is hiring a large team of contact tracers who will speak with COVID-19 patients and retrace their whereabouts for the past two weeks, and then call and notify anyone who may have been exposed.
Both of these strategies present their own unique advantages and challenges. Apple and Google’s method would be able to cover a large number of people, but the use of bluetooth may not always be an accurate method to find out when someone is exposed. The problem with the manual strategy is that, as of now, the government has not hired nearly enough contract trasers. A study by Johns Hopkins University estimated that the United States will need at least a bare minimum of 100,000 more workers for the contact tracing effort to be effective. Additionally, due to privacy concerns, these programs will need to rely on people voluntarily supplying information, and it is unclear how many people are willing to do so.
While these obstacles are matters of concern, countries like South Korea have seen success in using government mandated, digital contact tracing strategies. Like any operation of this size, the contract tracing effort in the United States is going to require a large degree of technological support. OpenEyes understands this, as this is the type of support the company supplies to our clients.
According to the CDC, “technology partners are key in the modification of existing systems and the development of new user-friendly data interfaces to manage multiple data streams with seamless interoperability.” The same holds true for any large scale project; data collection and management can be vital to accomplishing your organization’s goals. OpenEyes Technologies provides these types of data analytics programs that not only store data, but allow the user to understand it and draw conclusions from it. Data management and analytics are not only important products for a small business or organization, but also for ambitious projects like contact tracing, and could be the key to reopening the economy in a safe, scientific way.