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Alberta launches new contact tracing app to fight COVID-19 pandemic

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed the additional cases Monday, April 6. (Credit: Livestream, April 6)

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) — A new mobile application has been released by the Alberta government to help slow transmission and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The new program named ABTraceTogether is a voluntary program that uses Bluetooth to log interactions as an “encrypted digital handshake.”

“This happens when two phones, which each have the app, get within two metres of one another for an overall total of 15 minutes within a 24-hour period of time,” Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Friday.

Those who acquire the app and later test positive for the virus are asked to voluntarily upload encrypted data to Alberta Health Services (AHS) contact tracers.

This allows AHS tracers to use that information to track down people who had close contact with the infected person.

“The faster Alberta Health Services contact tracers can inform expose people or closed contacts, the quicker we will be able to prevent potential outbreaks and identify when Albertans must self-isolate,” Hinshaw added.

“These tactics yield valuable data that can help us get a better understanding of how the disease spreads and what underlying factors can contribute to cases of severe disease.”

Since Alberta reported its first COVID-19 case in March, Hinshaw says they have learned a lot about the virus.

Older people with the illness remain at high risk of severe symptoms, however, the average age of cases in the province is 41.5 years.

Investigations also uncovered the conditions that tend to be present in cases with severe disease. Hinshaw said they looked at whether cases had been previously diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory disease, and immune deficiency.

They also looked at cases reported to have obesity or a history of smoking.

“From the data so far, we’ve found that people between the ages of 30 and 64 are more likely to have a severe outcome, needing hospital or ICU treatment, or in the worst outcome, leading to death, if they had at least one of these health conditions.”

Among this age group, investigators found two-thirds of hospitalized cases, and almost three-quarters of people who died of the virus had at least one of those conditions.

More details have emerged about the most common symptoms of COVID-19, which include:

  • Cough being found in 62 per cent of all cases
  • Sore throat in 33 per cent
  • Fever 28 per cent