Tennessee House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) called on Gov. Bill Lee to create a “statewide system to trace the steps of those testing positive for COVID-19.”
“I call on Gov. Lee to use state resources to create a statewide contact tracing system including testing where necessary,” Stewart said in an interview with WKRN.
Stewart said Tennessee should follow Massachusetts in implementing a contact tracing system, which will employ nearly 1,000 “contact tracers” who will meet with COVID-19 patients throughout the state to determine who they have had contact with.
“They are hiring hundreds of people to conduct this critical business about who has been exposed to COVID-19 and seeing whether testing is required,” Stewart added.
“You stay healthy for this whole thing, then you’ll never need to ever look at this app,” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said of the state’s new Care19 app.
“If you find yourself in two weeks, or four weeks, or six weeks from now, you’re one of those individuals that test positive, or you’re in close contact with someone who tested positive … you pull up your Care19 app, and you’ll be able to provide information about where you’ve been,” he added.
One of the main concerns surrounding contact tracing, a fancy term used to describe the process of determining who has been exposed to COVID-19 patients, is its potential for violating privacy rights.
Researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) claimed they have developed a contact-tracing system that maintains “the privacy of those who are COVID-19 positive.”
“The system relies on short-range Bluetooth signals emitted from people’s smartphones. These signals represent random strings of numbers, likened to ‘chirps’ that other nearby smartphones can remember hearing,” MIT explained in a press release.
“If a person tests positive, they can upload the list of chirps their phone has put out in the past 14 days to a database,” the release continued. “Other people can then scan the database to see if any of those chirps match the ones picked up by their phones. If there’s a match, a notification will inform that person that they may have been exposed to the virus, and will include information from public health authorities on next steps to take.”
Daniel Weitzner, a principal research scientist in the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said the contact-tracing system doesn’t track location or use GPS.
“What we want is to enable everyone to participate in a shared process of seeing if you might have been in contact, without revealing, or forcing anyone to reveal, anything,” he said.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mike Stewart” by Mike Stewart. Background Photo “Tennessee Capitol” by FaceMePLS. CC BY 2.0.