Rhode Island COVID-19 Tracking Application Unveiled

In the coming weeks, Rhode Island will be using cellphone tracing technology to help monitor the spread of COVID-19. By using GPS tracking, officials say the state can slowly begin to reopen.

by Christine Donnelly, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser / May 20, 2020
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(TNS) — Gov. Gina Raimondo on Tuesday rolled out the cellphone tracing technology Rhode Island will use in coming weeks and months to help monitor the coronavirus and swiftly corral outbreaks so the state can continue slowly reopening.

The technology, which uses GPS tracking, comes in the form of a free app that people can use to share with Health Department officials where they've been for up to 20 days if they come down with the respiratory disease.

Swiftly contacting the friends and relatives of those with the disease and informing them that they were exposed and should self-quarantine is key to preventing further spread, health experts say.

With the GPS technology, the app's "location diary" automatically records where people have been and could make it easier for participants to remember who they associated with. But participants at any time can shut off the location tracking or delete their location diary.

Participants never give their name or address, only their zip code, and are only identified by an ID number. If health officials do inquire about their friends and associates their names are not added to the phone data, said Kristine Campagna, who is leading the Health Department's tracing efforts.

In the hopes of attracting more people to use the technology, health officials have also included on the app a list of resources people in self-quarantine can use, as well as regular health symptom monitoring and medical advice.

The app -- which arrives on your phone as a white "Crushcovid RI" icon -- becomes available Tuesday, in English and Spanish, along with a list of frequently asked questions such as who will have access to the data.

Speaking about the phone technology last week, the governor said, "Privacy and data protection are paramount. We want voluntary compliance. No one will be forced to do this. This is opt-in only. I hope everybody opts in, but I'm never going to force you to, which means I have to give you confidence that if you opt in, your data is safe."

Raimondo said only the Department of Health will have access to the data, not even the company providing the digital link between individual phones and those health officials doing the contact tracing.

"The department only gets it if the person gives permission and then they only keep it for however long it is necessary to complete the case investigation. So that is weeks, not months; then it is automatically destroyed."

©2020 Newport Daily News, R.I. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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