Health Officials Hope New Coronavirus Contact Tracing Apps Attract More Users

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A new wave of mobile apps that help track exposure to the coronavirus is coming to U.S. states ahead of the holidays as public health officials bet that recently introduced features from Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google will significantly boost adoption and impact.
Colorado, Maryland and District of Columbia launched exposure-notification apps with the new technology in the last month, garnering over 2.3 million users combined, according to their public health departments. California, Washington and other states expect to follow in the next month, officials said.

Complementing human contact-tracers, the smartphone apps use Bluetooth signals to track when people are in close contact and anonymously alert users when a recent contact tests positive. They emerged as promising tools early in pandemic, but technical shortcomings, privacy concerns and dismissive attitudes in the United States toward safety measures undercut their benefits.
The tide may turning as cold weather and lockdown fatigue threaten a global surge in cases.
In September, Apple and Google, dominant makers of smartphone software, launched a system called Exposure Notifications Express that allows public health authorities to launch apps without writing code, setting the stage for broader rollouts and better apps.
“This is one of …

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