Rhode Island smartphone app helping trace COVID-19 patients
May 20, 2020
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island introduced a smartphone app Tuesday that state officials say could help public health workers trace the contacts of COVID-19 patients and connect them to testing and other resources.
The Crush Covid RI app uses satellite-based GPS technology to track people's location if they opt into that feature. Someone who then tests positive for the coronavirus can volunteer to share their 20-day location history with the public health department.
Rhode Island is at least the fourth U.S. state to roll out a location-tracking app designed to help fight the pandemic's spread, but so far similar apps in Utah, North Dakota and South Dakota have encountered technical glitches and a general lack of interest by their residents.
Chirag Patel, the state's IT chief, says the location feature is designed to help jog someone's memory so they can better help trained public health workers make contact with people or locations, such as a grocery store, they might have visited.
Software company Infosys helped build the app. The GPS-based approach is different from a privacy-oriented model being introduced later this month by tech giants Apple and Google.
Patel says the state would consider later adopting that model, which uses Bluetooth wireless technology to automatically notify someone if they spent time close to someone who later tested positive for the virus.
A civic leader who wants to let local police ignore violations of the state's coronovirus-related restrictions withdrew his proposal, saying there was no sense in discussing a doomed measure.
Narragansett Town Council President Matthew Mannix had planned to introduce the resolution at Monday night's meeting but said he knew three of the five councilors would vote against it.
The resolution would have allowed Narragansett law enforcement officers to "exercise their discretion and not issue fines or violations based on the restrictions imposed on places of worship, restaurants, retail establishments and other small businesses."
Police Chief Sean Corrigan had previously said the Town Council "does not have the authority to order the police to ignore the law."
Mannix said he was promoting personal responsibility and local control over state mandates.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, last week called Mannix's proposal "selfish" and "reckless."
Johnson & Wales University is again postponing its in-person commencement ceremony.
The Providence campus had already pushed its spring graduation to Aug. 22 at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. But campus President Marie Bernardo-Sousa said in an online statement Monday that state restrictions on large gatherings will still be in effect.
The university hopes to honor 2020 graduates sometime next year, she said.
The school still plans a virtual commencement this Saturday.