State using call centers for contact tracing and considering apps

VIDEO: State using call centers for contact tracing and considering apps

State health officials Tuesday said they are reviewing phone apps that could be used for contact tracing in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bluetooth technology that could confidentially record how close we get to one another in public and send alerts to people who were exposed could be the next step in boxing in the virus.

But for now, the state is relying on nearly 1,500 call center workers, including more than 350 from the Washington National Guard.

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When someone tests positive, the law requires labs and doctors to report this to health officials.

According to state officials, the person with the positive test gets a call and will do an interview that runs 30 to 60 minutes.

Then comes a 10- to 15-minute interview with close contacts provided by the infected person.

Close contacts are defined as anyone who was within 6 feet (for at least 10 minutes) of the person who was infectious.

Contact tracers are trained not to use the name of the person infected.

People who were exposed are asked to self-quarantine and call their doctor.

The process is voluntary and fairly easy when you know the people you're near.

But as society reopens and people go out in public more, things will get complicated.

The state will ask restaurants to voluntarily keep all diners' contact information.

And officials are increasingly interested in apps that use Bluetooth technology to keep a log of where users go and how long they were close to a stranger who was also using the app.

The app will provide a confidential warning to those who were exposed.

State officials said Tuesday they are reviewing privacy and ethics questions concerning the apps.