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RSS FeedsCOVID-19 contact tracing can get personal. Can a smartphone app do better?
(The Star Theatre)


18 april 2020 16:30:14

COVID-19 contact tracing can get personal. Can a smartphone app do better?
(The Star Theatre)

In the gloom of the pandemic, nurse Sheila Montague received news on Thursday that brightened her day.It came from a Western University student in London — a young woman who was the third person to test positive for coronavirus in Ontario, on Jan. 23. She was the first person with COVID-19 that Montague supported while tracing and monitoring the people who came in close contact with the student.The text message Montague received brimmed with exuberance and gratitude. “She said she was doing well, that she and her partner are still together and that she got her driver’s licence and bought herself a car,” Montague says. “And when all this is over she’s going to pick me up and we’re going for a drive.”The bit about the boyfriend was a sign that another momentous plan was still on track — the student has promised to invite Montague to her wedding.“We formed a bond,” says Montague, a nurse at Middlesex-London Health Unit for more than 30 years, adding that the student followed self-isolation and other instructions to the letter.“The human aspect is so important in the work we do,” she adds in a phone interview. “You don’t want to lose that.”Montague’s concern about losing the connection she makes with both infected and at-risk people comes as Ontario and the federal government join a growing list of countries exploring the use of cellphone data for “contact tracing.”“We will develop new technologies for contact tracing and we will all become much better at reacting when a possible resurgence happens,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last weekend.Contact tracing is vital, labour-intensive gumshoe work done by public health units whenever a communicable disease is detected.When coronavirus is diagnosed, a physician or lab must by law report the infected person to the local public health unit. A health worker then calls and tells that person t ...

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