Americans in most states will no longer receive Covid exposure notifications on their smartphones now that the US public health emergency is over.
As of 2020, nearly 30 states have used a Bluetooth system developped by Apple And Google to track the spread of Covid infections and send push alerts to any smartphone user who has come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
THE Association of Public Health Laboratories hosted the national server on which the system was running.
On Thursday, the organization said “the majority of states” stopped using the exposure notification system after the Biden administration ended the public health emergency on May 11.
APHL added that it would no longer support key components of the system, which was intended to help million americans trace their exposures and make decisions about virus isolation and testing.
In a joint statement, Apple And Google did not address decisions by states to discontinue use of the system.
The tech giants told CNBC the system has helped public health departments fight Covid in a way that preserves privacy, referring to how it tracks infections without collecting location or identity. users.
CaliforniaNew York, Massachusetts, Washington, Virginia, New Mexico And Colorado are among the states that have said they will no longer use the system after the US emergency declaration ends.
“These systems have been scheduled to shut down on the same date the country’s COVID-19 state of emergency ends,” the California Department of Public Health said in a statement. statement late Thursday.
Several states used the system to create apps that smartphone users could download, such as AC Notice And WA notify.
States also provided exposure notifications through built-in functionality on Apple and Google operating systems.
For this method, state health departments had to submit a configuration file with their contact information and Covid advice to Apple and Google. The two tech companies would use the file to set up a feature on phones that users could enable to receive notifications.
On Friday, some Apple users who opted in to the feature received push alerts telling them that their iPhones “will no longer register nearby devices and you won’t be notified of any exposures.”
An Apple user shared in a Twitter post that their alert read, “Your health authority has disabled exposure notifications.”
But not all Apple and Google users in states who stopped using the exposure notification system received similar alerts Friday afternoon.
Neither Apple nor Google explained why some users received alerts while others did not.
There’s no clear count of how many Americans have activated the exposure notification feature on their phones or downloaded apps in the past three years.
Virginia believes that more than 3 million users have downloaded the state app or used the notification feature since these tools launched in 2020.
New Mexico said the “majority” of residents activated the notification function on their phones. More than 1.5 million alerts have been sent to users who may have been exposed to Covid, according to the state.
Washington said the state has generated more than 2.5 million exposure alerts through its app or notification feature.
Washington researchers found that state notification tools saved approximately 30 to 120 lives and likely prevented around 6,000 Covid cases in the first four months after launching in November 2020.
Despite these benefits, some Americans have been skeptical of Covid exposure notification tools.
A report 2021 by the US Government Accountability Office said the public had expressed privacy concerns. The report says the public may not trust local governments and tech companies to handle sensitive health information.
States’ decisions to end Covid exposure notifications are part of a broader shift in how the country is responding to the pandemic.
Last year, health services eased Covid restrictions like masking and social distancing as more Americans were vaccinated and strengthened against the virus.
This resulted in the end of the public health emergency, which removed much of the funding and flexibility that helped expand Covid testing, insurance coverage and access to care during the pandemic.
However, more than 1,000 Americans still die weekly from Covid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.