What the Tech? What Can Apple’s COVID-19 Tracking App Do?

Apple’s own COVID-19 tracking app has been updated and can now share anonymous information with health officials.

Available now in Apple’s App store, the COVID-19 screening tool asks a few questions about symptoms, how many people you’ve been around, whether you work in health care or an assisted living facility and which state you live in (which is optional).

I downloaded the app and opened the screening tool to see how it works.

First, it asks some very basic questions about symptoms such as do you have a fever or feel chills, whether you have a sore throat or trouble breathing or if you’re experiencing a loss of taste and smell. The following screens asks more in-depth questions about traveling out of the country and how well you’ve been social distancing from others.

Just to test out this app I answered that I have a sore throat (I do not and do not currently have any of the common symptoms of the virus). The app takes my answers along with my state of residence to make recommendations of what I should do next.

Based on that one answer that I have a sore throat, the app recommends that I self-isolate from others for 7 days and to check
frequently for other symptoms.

It also suggests I might be eligible to be tested for the virus.

Here’s what has changed from the last app update on Monday: Apple gives me the option to share my answers anonymously with the Centers for Disease Control to better track the spread of Coronavirus.

In its explanation, Apple says none of my personal information or data will be gathered and shared.

What Apple says it will do is give my answers and state of residence to the CDC and not include my name, address or phone number.

If there are others in my state suddenly experiencing symptoms, the CDC may issue more guidelines and recommendations to slow the spread and flatten the curve.

This is not part of the Apple/Google move to track the virus using location data from people’s smartphones. That technology will be available for app developers and states and regions to keep track of where the virus is spreading and whether you have come in contact or near someone who has symptoms or who has tested positive.

Google does not have the same type app that shares information with the CDC.

Whether health officials will benefit from information shared with the CDC relies on whether people will use the app and share information, and will they answer the questions honestly.

You can find the app in Apple’s app store or visit the website, www.apple.com/covid19

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