Apple handles slow shooting of COVID-19 exposure messaging apps

Earlier this week, one of the executives in charge of Apple’s COVID-19 exposure messaging technology took to Twitter to express frustration over the adoption of the technology in the United States. Now a new report from Washington Post goes more in depth with how much of the U.S. still does not use exposure messaging apps, even though the omicron variant is pushing case numbers to all-time highs, and Apple has responded.

Myoung Cha worked as Apple’s head of health strategic initiatives when the Apple / Google Exposure Notification API was created, but he has now moved on to the health start-up Carbon Health. Following his thread on Twitter earlier this week, Cha talked more about the development of COVID-19 exposure messaging technology.

Cha said the pace at which Google and Apple developed the exposure message framework was a “land-speed record for software development.” Cha and other representatives from Apple and Google worked closely with federal and state governments to roll out the technology, but the decentralized approach to health care in the United States proved to be too great a challenge to overcome.

Talking to Washington Post, Cha also criticized the Biden administration’s approach to dealing with the pandemic:

“The Biden administration, when they came to power, put almost all of their chips in the vaccines like their silver bullet to beat the virus,” Cha said. “I think that was strategically the biggest mistake.”

But today’s report summarizes the situation, which is twofold: some states have completely refused to adopt exposure notification technology, while reporting is insufficient in other states:

More than 20 states do not use it at all, including large states like Florida and Texas, which have reported millions of cases and tens of thousands of deaths. Even in states where millions have activated the messages, only a fraction of people who test positive for the virus report it to Apple and the Google system. California’s system, for example, has been activated on more than 15 million units, but only about 3 percent of the nearly 3.9 million reported cases since the launch were logged into the system.

Meanwhile, spokesmen for Apple and Google defended the system in a joint statement:

“We built the exposure intelligence system to help public health authorities during this historic pandemic in a privacy-preserving way. We are proud to work with public health authorities and provide a resource – used by many millions of people around the world – that has helped protect public health. “Google spokesman Nicolas Lopez and Apple spokesman Semonti Stephens said in a joint statement.

The full report on Washington Post is worth reading and can be found here.

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