Many U.S. universities to encourage use of contact tracing apps for on-campus students and staff

Many U.S. universities are likely to strongly encourage the use of COVID-19 contact tracing apps for on-campus students and staff. In fact, several institutions of higher learning are already at work on the apps and rules for physically returning to school using Apple’s and Google’s contact tracing (exposure notification) APIs.

Here’s an illustration of how the Apple – Google coronavirus contact tracing is designed to work:
contact tracing privacy. Apple and Google team on cross-platform COVID-19 contact tracing tool
Apple Google COVID. Apple and Google team on cross-platform COVID-19 contact tracing tool


The University of Alabama will require students and staff returning to its three campuses in the coming months to submit online health checks regularly and encourage them to download its contact tracing app, officials told Reuters on Thursday.

Researchers at several dozen U.S. universities are developing mobile apps that aim to curb new infections of the novel coronavirus, but Alabama is one of the first U.S. school systems to move forward on deploying such an app.

Students and employees will be reminded to sign into a website with their school login credentials every three days and report whether they have any symptoms related to COVID-19, the sometimes deadly respiratory illness caused by the virus.

Those reluctant to fill it out may be asked to stay away from campus, but an official enforcement system has not been finalized, said Selwyn Vickers, dean of University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) school of medicine.

The contact tracing mobile app, which is being built by Birmingham-based software developer MotionMobs, will use programming code released on Wednesday by Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google that notifies people who were near users reporting as virus-positive.

Its use will not be required because some phones cannot operate the app, and Apple and Google also set rules preventing institutions and the state from making it mandatory, said Sue Feldman, director of graduate programs in health informatics at UAB.

MacDailyNews Take: According to a study published on March 31, 2020 in Science, an adoption rate between of around 60% of the total population is needed for digital contact tracing apps to be effective. In countries where such apps have been made voluntary, even in Singapore with a compliant citizenry, the adoption rate remained below 20%. Perhaps Universities will have better adoption rates with a population that remains largely on campus and can be reminded often to use digital contact tracing apps.

At the very least, and perhaps the primary impetus for the creation of these apps at universities and everywhere else, is that the existence of such apps relieve universities and everyone else from LIABILITY under the law. Look at digital contact tracing apps as a buffer for getting back to school, work, leisure activities, sports, travel, etc. without the fear of being sued.

Schools, restaurants, airlines, retailers, everyone will be able to say: “The apps exist. Not our fault if too few people use them. Get well soon, as do 99.72% (99.91% under age 65) of people who contract COVID-19!”

This is the real reason why digital contact tracing apps exist: Absolvement of legal liability.


  1. MDN, the article you link to for the infection fatality rate being 0.28% actually estimates it as 1.14%. It also estimates the number required for herd immunity at 67%, which is still about 2.4 million deaths away.

    1. You lie.

      I know you want more people to die, so you can get a racist¹ dementia patient² elected (a questionable goal), but there is a difference between the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) that you quoted and the crude mortality rate to date which is, as MDN correctly reported:

      0.28% (general population, both healthy and unhealthy)
      0.09% (under 65 years old, both healthy and unhealthy)



      Stop lying.

      1. Perhaps if you learned to read critically, rather than to support your own preconceptions, you would have seen the part that said that the crude fatality rate is a meaningless number while an epidemic is still in progress. It isn’t until afterwards that it is possible to determine accurately either the number infected or the final number of deaths.

        So, one must rely on estimates of the actual infection fatality rate. The bulk of the linked article is an argument for a rate of about 1.14%. The process is similar to how the fatality rates for flu and other infectious diseases are calculated. The estimated toll from seasonal flu is 60,000, even though there have not been more than 13,500 counted deaths in any of the last six years (one year it was only 3500).

        The US cannot make sound policy decisions by listening to snake oil salesmen rather than the mainstream of the medical community.

        1. “The crude mortality rate has the potential to more than triple from our current estimate, reaching close to 1,000 deaths per 100,000 population (1% CMR), and close to 300 per 100,000 (0.3% CMR) in the population under 65 years old, with 89% of these deaths (267 out of 300) occurring in people with a known underlying medical condition (including obesity).”

          So, even at those estimates, 99.00% (99.70% under age 65) of people who contract COVID-19 will get well soon – with 89% of these deaths occurring in people with a known underlying medical condition (including obesity).

            1. How many millions die non-COVID deaths from the hysterical COVID shutdowns that, for some unknown yet insane reason, continued well beyond the 14 days to flatten the curve?

              “While it’s become popular to warn against placing economic concerns over health on the front lines of public health, the two are inexorably linked.” – M.B. Pell and Benjamin Lesser

              A recent New York Times article quoted a Delhi, India worker stating, “Instead of coronavirus, the hunger will kill us.” The piece reported that around 265 million people around the world could face starvation by the end of the year, and that measures like strict stay-at-home orders are “drying up work and incomes, and are likely to disrupt agricultural production and supply routes.” As bad as millions of people starving to death may be, it’s only one of many other consequences that are likely to arise from a prolonged total economic shutdown.

              TIME magazine recently published a report saying domestic abuse cases are tripling in China as “a result of enforced lockdown.” Other reports detail how domestic abuse killings have been “more than double” in the period of pandemic lockdown.

              According to research at Oxford University, suicide rates rise about 1% for every percentage point increase in unemployment. Based on data from the last recession, Oxford researcher Aaron Reeves told Reuters, “I think there is a good chance we could see twice as many suicides over the next 24 months than we saw during the early part of the last recession.” That means keeping the economy shut could add 20,000 additional deaths by suicide on top of the estimated 48,000 Americans who already die by suicide each year .

              There’s also the consideration of how disrupting the supply chain of vital medications could jeopardize the lives of countless patients living with long-term serious health concerns. As investor and founder of global asset management firm Research Affiliates Rob Arnott discussed recently, the US has about 30 million Americans currently diagnosed with heart disease, 34 million with diabetes, and 35 million have a chronic preventable lung disease. About 1.8 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year. “Given the overlap between these groups,” Arnott wrote, “around 70-80 million Americans are being treated for one or more of these ailments. If one in a hundred of them die because they can’t get their medicine, or the hospitals can’t take them, there’s another 750,000 deaths.”

              Limiting resources for people who suffer from addiction and treat patients for addiction, for example, will likely only exacerbate the death toll. Some fear that the number of deaths—some 450,000 Americans died of accidental overdoses from 1999 to 2018—could soon spike significantly as a result of lockdowns. “Addiction and recovery advocates say the US is now battling two epidemics at once,” as Daily Beast reporter Kate Briquelet wrote .

              It’s easy to paint a decision to close or reopen a given market as partisan and to cast aspersions against political opponents accordingly. But the situation is far more complicated than that, and failing to acknowledge the many factors involved does us all a disservice. In the end, those who favor keeping the economy shut down indefinitely in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus may inadvertently do more harm in the long run.

              Daryl Austin, Quartz, May 5, 2020

            2. By the way, your 3.3 million (an inflated figure as once all of the data is in, COVID-19 mortality rate will be under 1%) contains a very high percentage of people who would have died from the very reason why they couldn’t fight off COVID-19 in the first place: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer.

          1. Ask him to say something bad about China.
            Ask him to say something bad about Obama.
            Ask him to say something TRUE about the Flynn case.
            Ask him to say one good thing about the Trump Administration (anything….).

            He can’t. He’s a paid Chinese bot’droid, so he’ll deflect.
            There are certain parameters he can comment about, instantly provide all the DATA (much disproven or disputed, but if it’s in the media and supports China’s agenda….)

            No leftist I’ve ever encountered on this site the last 15 years has disgusted me more.
            At least most of them have ideas and ideals, this one only ideology.

            Watch his reply.
            It will claim he is right-leaning.
            That his facts are tight.

            He is an appalling disseminator of propaganda, bent on ruining more than just Trump.
            His true goal is to destroy the American economy and way of life.

            China is throwing everything they have at us, directly and indirectly, to change the agenda from their responsibility to our reckoning.
            And they have found an avid audience in a quarter of Americans.
            Unfortunately they are the loudest and least attached to reality.

            China JUST may win this….

            1. China handled the virus very badly. If it had begun intervention earlier, it might have confined the outbreak to the vicinity of Wuhan. Even if it had begun a little later, it could have kept most cases domestic and would have warned other nations to institute vigorous screening, contact-tracing, and isolation. The methods it eventually used to control the virus were brutal and totalitarian, even though they were effective.

              I have never defended China and it is absurd for you to expect those who have been reading my comments to agree that I have. I have defended the truth, which is that the novel coronavirus was and is a huge danger. I have resisted the repeated efforts by China, President Trump, and many others on this site to spread untruths in an effort to minimize that danger.

              In particular, I have repeatedly pointed out the many cases when people here have cited on-line materials out of context for propositions that the authors expressly oppose. This is one of those cases.

          2. Look at this guy:

            “…will get well soon…”

            Does even this article support the word “soon,” or did you just add that in to make it sound better?

            “…people with a known underlying medical condition (including obesity)…”

            Got it. People that it’s ok to let die. They’re going to die anyway, so why not set up policies to make it happen sooner (or right away)? “It’s a mercy,” is that what you’re saying?

            Note: any disease that kills people is just making them die sooner than they would have, since we’re all mortal. But, it’s helpful for you to reveal to those who hadn’t already figured it out that you think it’s no big deal for the vulnerable to die. That puts you in bad historical company.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.