When Nathan Watson logged onto a coronavirus contact tracing feature on his cellphone that was announced a few weeks ago by Apple, about the last thing the Tukwila accountant expected was what he saw.
“Exposure notifications have not been turned on for your region by your public health authority,” his phone told him.
The tool is a privacy-protected way to have your phone possibly notify you if you’ve been near someone who reports they’ve tested positive for coronavirus — even in anonymous situations, like at the grocery store. It’s potentially a major leap in the game of contact tracing that’s needed to quell the virus so people can get back to work and school.
Canada launched one of these in July and nearly 3 million have signed up. Twelve U.S. states have joined in, including Alabama, Arizona, New York and Wyoming. Our state has yet to decide, though.
To Watson, who said he just wanted to “fractionally help in any way I can,” it all seems emblematic of a troubling phase we find ourselves in with the coronavirus crisis. Which is that it no longer feels like a crisis. We’re going along, doing whatever we’ve been doing, with no apparent sense of urgency or plan for getting out.