Pandemics end because we shut down the infection source, eradicate it, or vaccinate against it. But if these techniques don't work, then we contact trace. For COVID-19, which spreads respiratorily even before someone shows symptoms, manual contact tracing can be too slow. Phone-based apps might be able to speed this up, but raise lots of issues.
We need to know: Is an app efficacious? Does the app help or hinder the efforts of human-based contact tracing, a practice central to ending epidemics? If not---and efficacy must be measured across different communities---there is no reason to consider its use any further. Is the use of the app equitable? What are the social and legal protections for people who receive an exposure notification? Does a contact-tracing app improve public health more effectively than other efforts? Does the public support its use? Without public support, apps fail.
The next pandemic will be different from COVID-19. Now is the time to decide what sorts of medical and social interventions we will make and what choices we want. The choices we make now will reverberate forever.
Tune into this live lecture on Zoom.
Meeting ID: 980 0539 3505