Miami-Dade launches contact-tracing mobile app
Six months into the ongoing pandemic, Miami-Dade County has launched a new contact-tracing mobile application to help residents avoid catching Covid-19.
The free app, called “CombatCOVID MDC,” is available on iPhone and Android devices. It requires no personal information or location data, and all information is encrypted “to meet maximum security protocols,” a county press note said.
Users who opt in to the program allow their phone’s Bluetooth technology to communicate with the devices of other nearby participants. If someone has been near a person who self-reported being positive for Covid-19, the app will inform them of a potential exposure via push notification and urge them to isolate and get tested immediately.
If a user self-reports testing positive, the app will alert others to get tested without identifying them.
Once downloaded, users need only run the app through an initial setup and make sure to open it when around others. It operates in a phone’s background.
Mayor Carlos Giménez said the app, which complements contact-tracing work by the Florida Department of Health, will be available for “the next three, four years.”
As of Tuesday, CombatCOVID MDC, developed by Palm Beach Gardens-based Shield Group Technologies, has been downloaded more than 500 times from the Google Store, where it has accrued a 4.5-star rating out of a possible five from 15 reviews.
It has a 3.3 out of a possible five-star rating on the Apple store from 30 reviews.
Palm Beach County is also using the app, which is available in English, Spanish and Creole.
During talks over Covid-19 measures Sept. 15, Mr. Giménez said contact-tracing is vital to maintaining the manageable number of infected people it recently reached.
“For the first time probably since April, we have less than 500 people in the hospital with Covid-19,” he said, but roughly 50% of the population here is “refusing to participate” in contact-tracing efforts.
As Miami-Dade continues to loosen strictures and allow businesses and schools to reopen, he continued, preventative measures like masks, social distancing and routine hand-washing must continue.
“The last thing we all want to do is see this thing get out of hand,” he said.
To that end, Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava said, Miami-Dade should partake of a state health department initiative to recruit local businesses to participate in the contact-tracing program.
“Employers oftentimes are part of the identification, so they can play a very valuable role, also encouraging testing but promoting contact-tracing in the workplace,” she said, adding that she’d forwarded information on the program to Deputy Mayors Jennifer Moon and Maurice Kemp.
With no vaccine in hand and schools planning to welcome students back to campuses next month, Vice Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, one of two education professionals on the county commission, advised against moving to reopen too quickly.
Unlike many workplaces, social destinations and transportation vehicles, public school classrooms don’t have enough space to allow student seating 6 feet apart. Cramming kids back into classrooms for up to 40 hours a week could undo all of the progress Miami-Dade has made in the last few months.
“People tend to think everything is over because numbers are better. Numbers are better because at night they have to go home at 11, because they are wearing masks and it’s mandatory,” she said. “Are we going to have another wave [of infections] if we continue [to open]? Let’s test the openings now and then let’s go step by step. Because if not, it’s concerning.”