Canada and Ontario have done a lot of things right during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve now moved to another level – there’s an app for that.

COVID Alert is an Android/iOS application that exchanges codes between your phone and others nearby using Bluetooth so no data or wifi is required.

Applications like this are actually kind of common if you search for them. As always, I’m a bit leery about letting an application have privileges to access my location and other personal information.

After all, I’ve watched enough episodes of Law and Order to see how they triangulate the bad people via cell phone towers. We live in a world where so many downloaded applications want to know your location, your friends, etc. I think most of us have just become resigned to the fact that it’s a necessity if you, say, want to open up a mapping application and have it plot a route from where you are to where you want to go.

But when it also comes to your health information, that raises the ante a bit.

Of course, there’s the standard denial that the application doesn’t track you. From the Government of Canada website:

Reading the complete information makes you feel good about this. And, it’s confirmed independently.

Canadian privacy watchdogs support COVID-19 exposure app

The only glitch, and it’s a biggy, is that the application requires a relatively new version of your smartphone’s operating system. In the same article, it indicates that 1.18 million Canadians have downloaded the application.

I’m one of them.

In the beginning, it was just from curiosity to see what it looked like and how it worked. The more I read about it, the more I think it’s a good idea. I wear a mask when out and can’t distance but that’s to protect others. I stay at home and that’s to protect everyone. On those rare occasions that I’m out and about, it would be nice to know that I didn’t come in close proximity with someone with the virus.

From my perspective, some things have to fall into place to make this effective. These are not trivial things.

  • we need more people using the application. 1.18 million people is a start but just a drop in the bucket, even if it’s only available in Ontario at the present time
  • people need to be honest and enter the code if they unfortunately are diagnosed so that the application can warn others

There really is a nice feeling to see this…

At this point, it’s voluntary to use it. I hope that it’s only necessary for a short time until we come to grips with the virus. We’re still not there; news this morning indicate that our area will remain in Stage 2.

We’re on the verge of the back to school activity for students. Particularly at the secondary school level, that includes going out for lunch, meeting friends before and after school, etc. Of course, we’ll advise them not to do this but they will. You know they will. If I had a son or daughter that would be going back to that environment, I think I’d be getting them to put the application on their phone and celebrate the no contact screen every night.

We’ve come a long with with all this and back to school comes around the time that we’re being told to expect a second surge. This makes a sensible addition to your toolbox.

I’ve talked to a few people whose opinions and insights I value and they seem to be on the same page as me. A couple have drawn a harder line indicating that they think it should be mandatory.

What about you? Have you installed the application or do you intend to?

4 thoughts on “COVID Alert

  1. Good morning Doug!

    Do you remember way back at the beginning of the pandemic, when people were talking about how some countries such as Korea and Vietnam managed to keep their numbers way down because they implemented Covid tracing apps so quickly? It makes you wonder why it took a country like Canada, with the support of Google and Apple, so long to get the COVID Alert app up and running. The original announcement had indicated it would be available at the beginning of July, and then there was a delay for some reason, such that it took an extra month before it became available.

    I continue to be dismayed with folks who decry the wearing of masks as an infringement on their personal liberty, hold up tracing apps as some kind of Big-Brother-is-Watching conspiracy, and avoid inoculations and vaccinations, oblivious to the fact that their actions put their fellow citizens at risk.

    I saw photographs yesterday from schools that were restarting down in the states. Photographs showed hallways filled with students, as you would expect during a period change, and very few of the faces were masked. I can only hope that Ontario schools will have an opportunity To have the Minister of Education rethink his plan between now and September, once the numbers from schools down south start to hit the news.

    I get that governments everywhere want to restart their economies, and as a result they are gambling with the lives of their Nations’ children by sending them back to school so that their parents can go back to work. However, it’s all wishful thinking and ignoring of the basic reality that an extremely small percentage of populations have actually been exposed to/recovered from the virus. The lockdowns of recent months have significantly decreased gatherings which have slowed the transfer of the virus, however, without a vaccine and/or immunity, as soon as people start getting together again, the transmission and infections will recommence.

    I periodically check the local health unit COVID-19 website, and continue to be impressed with the fact that we have not had a confirmed case here since May 18. In fact, they were only two confirmed cases in May. That means we’ve been 2 1/2 months without an active case here. People here have been isolating, mostly everything has been closed, and the word on Twitter a few days ago was that Belleville was trending because someone had passed through and commented on how everyone in the local mall was wearing masks. There are way more many people wearing masks now than there were back during the initial instances when I started wearing one.

    I shudder to think what will happen come the fall when the schools here re-open with full classes K-12 and parents go back to work, and suddenly everyone is out and about and mixing. All it’s going to take is one inconsiderate mask-avoiding infected person passing through the community before there’s an outbreak in a school and we have kids, teachers and related family members suddenly getting ill.

    The numbers don’t lie. If the majority of the population has not yet been exposed, then the majority is still susceptible to infection, and without a vaccine, the tools we have a disposal now are a little better than what existed over 100 years ago during the Spanish flu pandemic:

    • masks
    • physical distancing
    • handwashing and disinfecting
    • quarantining
    • contact tracing

    . That we now have the COVID Alert app that can hopefully help with the last one means we are slightly better off now than they were then. However, the Spanish flu pandemic lasted three years, and unless this thing dies out because we remove the opportunities for it to transfer to new people, it’s going to continue to transfer to new people whenever we “try to re-open.”


  2. Thanks, Doug, for your thinking on this. I will be downloading the app. I, too, live in a community with very few cases (we went 40 days clear, Andrew, but now have 4 cases).


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