Contact tracing apps built with joint Apple and Google software are now used in 12 U.S. states and territories, as public health agencies devise ways to use technology to facilitate tracking and notifying residents of exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Google and Apple built the software for the Exposure Notifications System that allows public health agencies to create free apps for iPhones and Android phones and send push alerts through Bluetooth signals to users who came in close contact with other app users who have reported a positive coronavirus test.

Google spokesman Pete Voss said in an email that app users can choose to opt in to exposure notifications and to disclose their coronavirus diagnosis to the app. He added that the system does not collect or use location data.

Globally, more than 40 countries and regions have launched contact tracing apps using the Apple/Google software. In the United States on Thursday, New York and New Jersey became the latest states to adopt them, Voss said. The apps in New York and New Jersey also work with the systems for Pennsylvania and Delaware residents to trace potential exposure across state lines, according to a Thursday release.

“Testing is only as good as your contact tracing,” New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said in the release. “We have about 15,000 people statewide who do contact tracing; they call them disease detectives. But we’ve been looking for a technology-based solution.”

CNBC analysis of U.S. census data calculated that 70 million people, or 21 percent of the U.S. population, currently have access to a coronavirus tracing app. Other public health agencies have announced plans to launch similar systems in the coming weeks, including in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Connecticut.

The Washington Post

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