Tagged by the Covid Alert App — Again

This seems like a fitting topic for my last blog post of the year.

In late September, I posted about being tagged by the Covid Alert App, namely being notified that within the previous 14 days I had spent 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of someone who had reported (s)he had tested positive.

It happened again this week. Last Monday I received the same notice that I had been exposed – according to that definition – to someone who reported that they had tested positive. I was able to make an appointment to be tested the next day and by the following morning my test came back negative. Big sigh of relief! And no cost out-of-pocket.

 Why Me?

Of course, I started to think back about my movements over the previous two weeks. I had been in contact with several health professionals, but in each case both they and I were masked, and usually they wore face shields. Furthermore, if a health care professional contracts Covid – 19, the responsible thing for them to do would be to contact the clients they dealt with. No health care professional contacted me, so I’m assuming none of them tested positive.

I can think of two other occasions where I might have had a contact that the app registered. I was at a specimen collection clinic at a hospital and waited for a short time, but the waiting room was almost empty. Second, I went to the liquor store.

So I am at a loss to understand why I was notified. The part of Toronto in which I live, Don Mills, has a very low incidence of Covid – 19. While use of the app is growing with 5.9 million downloads to date in Canada, it is by no means universal. In Ontario, there have been a total of over 7000 alerts since the app was launched, with approximately 150 daily in the entire province in each of the last few days. That is not a huge number, and it almost feels that the proverbial needle in a haystack pricked my finger. These observations assume that, in my case, the app is working correctly and that my notification was not a “false positive.”

… And Going Forward

For now, I will assume the notification was not a false positive. I will continue to use the app. I will continue having as little contact as possible with people outside my household. I will continue to mask up whenever I leave the house. And I will continue to wait for the vaccine. Here’s to a better New Year!

3 comments

  1. Part of the lack of universal use is fear of privacy. The people of Hong Kong feel the same way. There, they have to scan at every establishment they go to get groceries, buy takeout, subway car, etc.

    South Korea and Japan do the same.

  2. I received a Covid warning and found it so frustrating that it provided so little information. I will follow up from Bernard. People in NZ and AU (must or did) scanned a QR code when they entered a cafe, store, church or office. I saw no discussion of privacy there. Sandford, you highlight another issue…5.9 million users here. That is terrible. Numerous countries launched apps in April (AU – 26th); we took three months longer – launching at end of July. Did you notice our marketing campaign for the App? Did we harness our best advertising expertise to sell its value? No. We failed to think that we would have to sell its value. I read you need about 40% of society to have the app for it to be effective. NZ had 42% of society. Our total is perhaps 18%. So much for innovation….

    • Ed thanks for your comment and I hope you are well.
      I agree with you that the app is no help in contact tracing, that takeup has been disappointing, and that the advertising (what I’m seeing on television now) is amateurish. There are numerous aspects of Canada’s response to Covid that are not leading-edge, and this is one. I will keep using it, though, because an imperfect app is better than none. Sandford Borins

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