Two months after its launch, fewer than 1,000 customers have obtained warnings from a state app that anonymously alerts New Yorkers to potential COVID-19 publicity, with a lot of its customers failing to log their constructive take a look at outcomes.
The app, Covid Alert NY, makes use of Bluetooth expertise developed by Apple and Google to detect when folks have been inside 6 ft of each other for longer than 10 minutes—assuming they each have downloaded the software program. If a person of the app checks constructive, folks they’ve had contact with for that length are notified, with out recording any personally figuring out element on the publicity.
The method requires customers to manually enter their take a look at outcomes, nonetheless, and a majority haven’t adopted by means of.
For the reason that app’s launch on Oct. 1, there have been 2,631 New York residents to check constructive for COVID-19 and report back to a contact tracer they’ve the app put in on their telephone, in response to knowledge supplied by the state Division of Well being.
The contact tracer gives that individual a singular code to enter into the app, signifying their constructive take a look at and anonymously alerting app customers who had contact with the individual.
Solely 854 folks—a few third of these instances—have put the code within the app, in response to state knowledge. These 854 instances reported to the app have triggered 780 publicity notifications to different customers.
The 854 instances characterize simply zero.5% of the greater than 180,000 constructive COVID-19 checks the state has recorded because the app’s launch. The app has been downloaded 1.1 million occasions, which might characterize 7% of the adult-age inhabitants in New York, although it’s unlikely that every obtain represents an energetic person.
As instances rise once more in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pushed for folks to obtain the app as a mitigation measure through the present virus surge, with a hyperlink to the app positioned on the high of all state internet pages. A joint examine by Oxford College and Google launched in the summertime discovered that exposure-notification apps might scale back infections by 15% in a area if the app is downloaded by a minimum of 15% of the inhabitants and paired with handbook contact tracing.
Public well being specialists known as the notification numbers disappointing for an app they are saying might assist relieve stress on contact tracers as instances rise.
The 780 whole notifications “tells me that the app is not getting used sufficient to generate a lot profit; every individual is coming in touch with only a few others who are also utilizing the app,” mentioned Troy Tassier, a Fordham College professor who research financial epidemiology.
Denis Nash, a professor of epidemiology on the CUNY Graduate Faculty of Public Well being in Harlem, mentioned the state wants to search out methods to create demand across the app.
“In comparison with the potential job this app may very well be doing, it isn’t but even coming shut,” Nash mentioned. “This has the potential to alleviate a large burden on contact tracers. Sure, that is public well being, however it is usually a advertising downside.”
The problem for the state is balancing privateness on the app with the necessity to broaden it. Cuomo has pressured that the app is constructed round privateness and that each step is voluntary.
Cuomo’s workplace mentioned alerts about potential publicity attain past the 780 customers who’ve obtained them straight, as these folks probably have notified their household and pals.
“New York state’s contact tracers have confirmed to be extraordinarily efficient, reaching over 80% of all instances, and the Covid Alert NY app serves to complement these efforts,” state spokeswoman Laura Montross mentioned.
The state has marketed the app by means of Fb, TikTok and different social-media shops, in addition to with ads on tv and radio. The advertisements have all come by means of donated area or time, Montross mentioned. The $700,000 improvement value for the app got here by means of a donation from Bloomberg Philanthropies and federal grants.
“I believe you will note elevated downloads now, with a lot consideration being paid to spiking COVID charges normally,” mentioned Julie Samuels, government director of Tech:NYC, which helps promote the app. “Folks will nonetheless wish to do issues, so it is advisable follow applicable security measures. And downloading the app is one such measure.”
“New York’s COVID-19 tracing app sluggish to realize acceptance” initially appeared in Crain’s New York Enterprise.