Several states preparing test-and-trace programs that will help them reopen economies

Several U.S. states are preparing test-and-trace programs intended to help them track further cases of the coronavirus so that they can safely re-open their economies and get people back to work without risking a surge in new infections. 

Massachusetts, Utah and North Dakota are among those getting systems ready that can limit the spread of the virus by following up with people that have been in contact with coronavirus patients and trace where the virus might have spread, MSN reported.

“Even if the curve does flatten, we won’t be able to go back to work and school and regular life unless we chase the virus down much more significantly,” said Joia Mukherjee, who leads a Massachusetts non-profit that is working on tracing coronavirus patients, according to MSN.

North Dakota has repurposed a tracking app called the Bison Tracker in an attempt to reduce the amount of tedious work normally required to retrace the steps of people infected with coronavirus, MSN reported. The app originally traced the progress of the North Dakota State University Bison football team en route to a championship game.

More testing needed

Tracing those infected with the coronavirus is important, but it requires more testing to know who actually has the virus. Testing has been slow to ramp up in many areas, but MSN reports that states are working to get private companies involved so that more residents can be tested.

The efforts could also lead states to hire thousands or even tens of thousands of workers to conduct both testing and tracing, MSN said.

“Would I be sad if we ended up hiring 40,000 to 50,000 people in Massachusetts to do this? Absolutely not,” Mukherjee said. “We could put people to work and end the epidemic.”

Apple and Google launching tracing system

On Friday, Apple and Google announced that they were jointly releasing a tracing system that could show people whether they have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

The system was built to be used by individuals and health agencies, and claims that it keeps personal information private by using Bluetooth and anonymizing itself every 15 minutes, The Hill reported.

Testing and tracing are thought to be keys for re-opening the economy, since they are a targeted way to prevent a resurgence of infections–and deaths–after government-ordered lockdowns end.

The system would be voluntary for users, according to The Hill, which means it could be incomplete in the information it provides.

Hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus have both begun to slow in the U.S. in recent days, but many are reluctant to end stay-at-home orders and non-essential business closures without some way to ensure that a whole new wave of infections won’t bring the pandemic to a new peak that could overwhelm the nation’s medical personnel.

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