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High tech contact tracing could help life get back to normal

Contact tracing is a proven tool for fighting infectious disease and now it's getting a modern upgrade.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — No matter what the plan is, a lot needs to be done to reopen both American society and the economy. 

One thing that could help Americans get back to business, as usual, is knowing if you have come in contact with someone who has had coronavirus. Contact tracing is a tool that's been used by infectious disease specialists for decades. 

Basically, when they find someone with an infectious disease they perform a thorough interview to figure out every person they may have had contact with during the time they were contagious. They then contact those people either for testing or to order a quarantine. This often requires a lot of time and manpower.

Now, contract tracing is getting a 21st-century upgrade, and the new approach sounds a lot simpler. 

With help from Apple and Google, your own phone could find everyone you were in contact with. Using your phone's Bluetooth it can determine who's phone you were near while contagious. People with the virus would need to download an app for those contacts to be notified, but you don't need the app yourself to get the alert.

Of course, there are privacy concerns. Google and Apple have said no names would be attached to the data, but experts worry this is a slippery slope. While others say this kind of tracking could stick around long after the pandemic is over.

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