Covid-19 Notifications Set to Cross State Lines

As reported by the Associated Press (AP), residents in 17 states will soon be able to receive notifications both in their home states and across state lines. For several months now, a handful of states have operated in a stand-alone mode with regard to the leveraging of bluetooth technology to identify when one or more users who were collocated in the same area test positive for the Corona Virus.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control Map – As of December 13, 2020

Even more promising is the the fact that states don’t have to use the same app to achieve the same results. This public health service relies on the Association of Public Health Laboratories’ National Key Server, which is accessible to separately designed and managed apps. States currently poised for execution of critical notifications are Virginia, Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, ​Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wyoming.

Though there has not been much mention of it, there will obviously be some who decry potential for the unauthorized sharing of health data. This, though, should not be an overriding concern, since the data obtained through the National Key Server does not include the names or any other personal information covered under existing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws. Moreover, the functionality simply alerts persons that their device has been identified as having been within “infection distance” of the device of another user with a bluetooth enabled device. For this reason, it is obviously not intended to serve as a diagnosis as much as a cautionary warning that a person might want to get tested.

Based upon the emerging cross-state functionality, it would be in the best interest of other states to join the effort. This notification system, when coupled with the impending rollout of vaccines, promises to greatly aid in the battle against the disease, which as of December 13, 2020, has infected more than 16.2 million U.S. citizens and, even more alarmingly, has resulted in more than 298,000 deaths.

More information on the National Key Server and its functionality can be found on the Association of Public Health Laboratories’ Serverwebsite:

https://www.aphl.org/programs/preparedness/Crisis-Management/COVID-19-Response/Pages/exposure-notifications.aspx