App a valuable tool as virus cases rise in state, region

With COVID-19 cases rising rapidly in the Upper Peninsula and Michigan as a whole, it is critical to have tools that help individuals and health officials track the spread of the virus.

These tools can take many forms, but this past week the state of Michigan announced the statewide rollout of its COVID-19 exposure notification app, MI COVID Alert.

The app, which is free, voluntary and anonymous, can notify users if they’ve been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, state officials said in an announcement. It also allows users to confidentially submit a positive test result into the app, which will notify close contacts of that person without revealing their identity.

While officials emphasize that the app is no replacement for mask-wearing, handwashing, social distancing or contact tracing, it’s a key tool for fighting the spread, as knowledge is power when it comes to potential COVID-19 exposures.

This is evidenced by research by Oxford University, which “found a potential to reduce infections and deaths, even if just 15% of a population uses an exposure notification app like MI COVID Alert,” officials said in the announcement.

Although some may have privacy concerns — which are often well-founded in the digital age — about the app, MI COVID Alert uses “randomly generated phone codes and low-energy Bluetooth technology instead of GPS location to protect privacy while looking back in time to determine close contact with other phones that have the app,” officials said in the release.

We encourage readers to do their part and download the app if possible, as we believe confidentially sharing this type of information is a service to anyone you may come into close contact with, as well as the region, state and nation as a whole.

And reducing infection rates is absolutely critical right now, as Michigan’s overall COVID-19 positivity rate and the seven-day average of new daily cases have roughly doubled over the past two weeks, the Associated Press reported earlier this week.

Here in the Upper Peninsula, we’ve seen the total number of cases increase from roughly 1,500 in mid-September to just over 6,700 on Oct. 30, to over 8,000 as of Thursday.

Consider this: It took around six months for the U.P. as a whole to record 1,500 cumulative cases, but it has only taken the past two weeks to add roughly 1,300 cases.

This is how quickly the virus can take hold of a region.

With these numbers in mind, we hope Yoopers and residents around the state will assist in the fight against COVID-19 by downloading the app and confidentially sharing any positive test results.

This is another tool we can use to keep our communities safe and hopefully mitigate the rapidly accelerating spread of the virus in the U.P.

For those who wish to download it, the app is available for free in the Apple and Google app stores.


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