COVID-19 exposure notifications expand among public health community

COVID-19 exposure notifications expand among public health community

The emergence of COVID-19 required swift action to develop systems and processes that support public health agencies and their pandemic response efforts. This year APHL has worked to create new connections, develop new message formats, standardize language and host a variety of solutions to aid in the COVID-19 response. This blog post is the third in a series that outlines and explains these efforts.

APHL recently announced a new effort to bring COVID-19 exposure notifications to the public health community. Through this collaboration with Apple, Google and Microsoft, APHL has enabled state and territorial public health agencies to provide COVID-19 exposure notifications to residents who choose to receive information regarding COVID-19 exposures in their area.

Today we are excited to announce another step toward expanding exposure notifications in the United States. To reduce the effort needed by public health agencies to bring exposure notification to their jurisdiction, APHL has made available a multi-tenant verification server running on Google Cloud.

Reducing boundaries between jurisdictions

Since July, several states have launched apps using Apple and Google’s Exposure Notifications System (ENS) to augment contact tracing efforts for the disease. Two states have launched an app using ENS with a national key server, hosted by APHL. The national key server allows exposure notifications to work between users who have applications published by different states, which enables the system to work across the US. It assures users can determine when they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 from other states.

As a part of ENS, a verification server is necessary to ensure a user has received a positive test result before uploading their temporary exposure keys to the national key server. Before, each public health agency needed to stand up their own verification server and decide on a verification approach. Having one verification server reduces the additional time and complexity to deploy ENS.

The new multi-tenant verification server provides each state and territory secure access to generate single-use verification codes. These verification codes could be provided to the user by a contact tracer or case investigator—over the phone or via SMS (text message)—after they have verified a positive test result. This server does not store personally identifiable information, but can send verification codes via SMS to make it easier for users to enter the verification code in their app.

The multi-tenant verification server reduces the burden on busy public health agencies and enables more rapid adoption of exposure notification. APHL, as a trusted public health partner, is a key conduit in delivering this solution to the public health community to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

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