Thoughts When the App Reset

Since the app tagged me, I’ve been watching for when it would reset to “no exposure detected.” It finally happened yesterday, Thursday January 7. If the period in which I had been exposed during the last 14 days ended on January 7, then the day on which I was exposed was 14 days prior to that, or Thursday December 24.

The only reason I left my house that day was to visit a specimen collection clinic. So I will conclude that the app registered that it was there that I had spent 15 minutes within 2 metres of an app user who had tested positive. As I mentioned in my previous post, I tested negative the day after I was tagged by the app. And I have had no symptoms since then. I wish a speedy recovery to the person I was in contact with.

Contact Tracing with the App?

While waiting for my status on the app to change, I’ve been thinking about how the app could be used for contact tracing. Though the app does not track the location of contacts, I expect it would have data about the time contacts occurred. Apparently information about the time of a contact is not provided to app users to protect privacy. If time-of-contact information were of great value in contact tracing and if contact tracing were of great value in stopping the pandemic there would be a rationale for providing it. If time-of-contact information were provided the app user could search their memory to determine where the contact likely occurred. This information, in turn, could be relayed to contact tracers working for public health agencies to identify other people who were exposed but who don’t have the app to inform them. In addition, the app user who was exposed could notify other people they were subsequently in contact with.

That said, it appears that when there is a high incidence of the pandemic contact tracing becomes an ineffective public health tool because contact tracers are overwhelmed. I notice that Toronto Public Health has recently changed its contact tracing protocol to focus only on those diagnosed with Covid – 19 who had ten or more high-risk contacts in the previous 14 days.

My Takeaway

My takeaway from this second encounter with the Covid – 19 Alert app is that there is considerable community spread of the pandemic in Toronto and that, if I leave home to places like the health care system or public transit, there is a considerable likelihood I will continue being tagged with the app. If I can’t physically distance (say because I am receiving health care in person or because public transit is crowded) I will make sure to wear a mask.

Finally, I find it stressful to go through the cycle of getting alerted, getting tested, getting results, and then deducing where the contact occurred. The best way to avoid it is to stay home as much as possible except for outdoor walks that pose no threat. It is bright and sunny this morning and that is what I’ll be doing after this is posted.

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