New program for contact tracing underway in Georgia

Contact tracing could be key to helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Georgia Department of Public Health is testing a new application to streamline the process.

Testing on the new contact tracing software is currently underway in three areas of the state. The Gwinnett-Newton-Rockdale Health district, the North Central Health District in Macon and the Coastal District in Savannah are currently in a pilot program for the contact tracing software.

"Anybody who tests positive will be enrolled in this program, they can provide the information of their own close contacts," said Michael Hokanson with the North Central Health District.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you'll get a text from the Georgia Department of Health asking for your close contacts. The Department of Health will then contact those individuals telling them they may have been exposed.

"We can make a communications network to those individuals and get them the information they need," said Hokanson.

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Hokanson says most areas just don't have the manpower to get information from the tens of thousands of Georgians who have tested positive.

"This allows for much easier contact tracing since it is all done through an app, it's not public health having to make phone calls, having to put info into our own systems," says Hokanson.

This is all voluntary.  It will be up to the person who tests positive to decide whether to go to a link and fill out a form with the people they've come into contact with.

"This isn't something that once you open up the text message it is going to pull data from your own device, your contact list, or your location data or anything like that," said Hokanson.

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Some people say they have questions about the information being shared and would rather tell the people they've come in contact with themselves.

"What are people doing with the data and how long is it being stored, and is it only being used for that, and what is the follow-up period, there's a lot more I'd like to know about this," said Daria Stepanova who lives in Gwinnett.

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Others say they'll give up some privacy to help stop this virus.

"I would like to help stop the spread, the more people that can help figure out how much it spreads, the more they can try to stop it," said Kendall Kerr who lives in Gwinnett.

The regions that are involved in this pilot program are just getting started, they've only been using it a few days.  It will be up to them to help work out the kinks before it is rolled out statewide.

RELATED:, FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates.

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