The state says contact tracing is one of the most crucial tools they have to slow the spread of COVID-19 and the MI COVID Alert app is supposed to make it nearly automatic.
Is it doing as well as hoped?
In November the state released the free program aimed at tracing positive tests and tell users if they were exposed by a positive case.
Angela Stone is a hair stylist and downloaded the app on the first day.
“I know for a fact that I have had a handful of clients that have all have tested positive for COVID,” said Stone, “And some of them have had the app.”
She never received an alert, by her past clients or form anyone the past five months.
“No one that I’ve ever known, and I’ve asked a handful of people in the last few days, have ever received a notification,” said Stone.
Then this past week, she tested positive for COVID. She went to the app to record her results and hit a wall. She needed a personal identification number. She was asked to call, asked to email, asked to wait for a call from the county.
“It’s just a big run-around,” said Stone, “I actually ended up going through 211 and then you have to go through a number of voice automated prompts.”
By the time her contacts would be notified, it would be over a week since her symptoms.
“It is still a useful app,” says Kirsten Simmons, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services.
The state spent half a million dollars to develop the app. On their end, they see the value. It’s another layer of contact tracing that only gets stronger with more people using the app.
“If the person who you were exposed to didn’t have the app, then you might not receive a notification,” said Simmons.
It’s not meant to be a first line of defense but a tool. It follows CDC guidelines and only notifies if a user spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of a positive cases.
With cases rising, more than 8,000 reported on Monday for a two day count, the higher likelihood more alerts will be sent out.
“The combination of MI COVID Alert and traditional contact tracing,” said Simmons, “Is a really great value.”
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