Google and Apple’s New York Covid Alert app reported less than 1,000 potential coronavirus exposures in first two months

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The 854 cases represent just 0.5% of the more than 180,000 positive Covid-19 tests recorded by the state since the launch of the application. The app has been downloaded 1.1 million times, which is believed to be 7% of New York’s adult population, although each download is unlikely to represent an active user.
As cases rise again in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pushed for people to download the app as a mitigation measure during the new wave of viruses, with a link to the app placed at the top of all state web pages. A joint study by the University of Oxford and Google published this summer found that exposure notification apps could reduce infections by 15% in a region if the app is downloaded by at least 15% of the population and associated with manual contact search.

Public health experts have called the notification numbers disappointing for an app they believe could help relieve pressure on contact tracers as cases increase.

The 780 notifications in total “tell me that the app is not being used enough to generate much benefit; each person comes into contact with very few other people who also use the app, ”said Troy Tassier, a professor at Fordham University who studies economic epidemiology.

Denis Nash, professor of epidemiology at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health, said the state needs to find ways to create demand around the app.

“Compared to the potential work this app could do, it doesn’t even come close yet,” Nash said. “This has the potential to ease a huge burden on the contact tracers. Yes, it’s public health, but it’s also a marketing issue. “

The challenge for the state is to find a balance between the privacy of the application and the need to extend it. Cuomo stressed that the app is built around privacy and that each step is voluntary.

Cuomo Bureau alerts about potential exposure go beyond the 780 users who received them directly, as these people will likely notify family and friends. The app is not intended to replace traditional contact tracing.

“New York State contact tracers have been shown to be extremely effective, reaching over 80% of all cases and the Covid Alert NY app is used to complement these efforts,” said Laura Montross, spokesperson for the state.

The state advertised the app through social networks such as Facebook and TikTok, as well as television and radio ads. The advertisements all originate from the given space or time, according to Montross. The development cost of $ 700,000 for the app comes from a donation from Bloomberg Philanthropies and federal grants.

“I think you’ll see an increase in downloads now with such attention being paid to rising Covid rates in general,” said Julie Samuels, executive director of Tech: NYC, which helps promote the app. “People will always want to do things, so you have to apply the right security measures and downloading the app is one of those measures. “

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