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Exposure notification apps could be more effective if they’re better at assessing risk

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Contact Tracing Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Joanna Masel is quick to recognize that the contact tracing apps built to track cases of COVID-19 aren’t as good as they could be. The apps, built on a framework offered by Apple and Google, aren’t used by many people in the United States and didn’t seem to make a big difference in the spread of the virus.

But Masel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona and advisor to the team behind the Arizona exposure notification app, thinks there are ways to make the apps more useful. In a paper published last week with colleagues, she outlined one possible improvement: adjust the apps so that they could better recognize situations where people who are exposed to the virus have a lower risk of catching COVID-19. Then, they may not...

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