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Utah app for contact tracing hopes to implement bluetooth tracing announced by Google and Apple

Posted at 6:14 PM, Sep 02, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — The State of Utah launched the app Healthy Together to help with contact tracing.

The biggest hang up: people didn’t want their location to be traced.

The company, Twenty, designed an app to share user’s locations in hopes to encourage social gatherings.

Less than a year after the app’s launch, Twenty was approached by the State of Utah to use their location sharing technology for COVID19 contact tracing.

“it just wasn’t a thing yet and we had developed specific technology around identifying whether or not people were getting together with their friends,” said Twenty Co-Founder Jared Allgood. “The goal was to repurpose that.”

So far, Twenty reports 90,000 Uahn’s have used their app, checking their symptoms 720,000 times. Twenty has referred 24,000 of those Utah’s to get tested for COVID19.

Earlier this year, Google and Apple announced using Bluetooth for contact tracing, but didn’t provide a way for State’s to implement it.

Now, Google and Apple are ready to provide Bluetooth contact tracing for anyone, through flipping a switch in Apple settings or downloading an app for Android users.

“Google and Apple are providing the tools that we can use to leverage and expand the reach and the capability of the COVID response,” said Allgood.

Governor Herbert’s Communications Director, Anna Lehnardt, said the new technology does not mean they’ve wasted $4 million developing their own app. In fact, they hope to integrate the technology into Healthy Together.

“We’ve basically been trying to build the ideal tool,” said Lehnardt. “We really think that we’re getting closer and closer.”

Lehnardt said they’re hoping to use Healthy Together as a place to anonymously report, receive test results and find testing resources in addition to contact tracing.

Per Utah policy, Lehnardt said they have opened a bid for other companies to offer their best ideas for an app before selecting Twenty for the final product.

Allgood said he believes their product can be expanded to help speed up the health department’s response.

"We want to push forward with new features and functionality that expand the use cases,” said Allgood.

The Governor’s Office and representatives from Twenty met with Google and Apple this week to discuss what this could mean for contact tracing moving forward.