States Looking to College Kids to Help Fix Contact Tracing Apps

August 21, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce

Last modified August 24, 2020

According to this article in Politico, colleges across the country are testing contact-tracing apps, hoping that tech-savvy students already accustomed to sharing so much of their life online will embrace the digital tool as densely populated campuses try to reopen. The tracing apps, announced with much fanfare early in the coronavirus pandemic, haven’t yet been in widespread use because of bureaucratic hurdles, early tech struggles, and public apprehension about privacy risks. But state officials and public health officials feel the contained environment of college campuses may be the ideal testing ground to boost lagging digital efforts to trace infections.

“It’s clear across the entire United States that this is probably going to have to happen at the university level,” said Joyce Schroeder, a University of Arizona professor who is leading on-campus deployment of Covid Watch, an app leveraging tracing technology jointly developed by Apple and Google.

Digital contact tracing tools alone won’t be enough to broadly help colleges reopen campuses right away. But as students flood dorms and dining halls, colleges pushing through with reopening hope these apps can keep cases down, even if students are more likely to be lax about precautions like social distancing, masks, and hand washing.

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