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Apple and Google team up on virus ‘contact tracing’ by smartphone

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A woman uses her smartphone in a Starbucks (AFP)

Google and Apple unveiled a joint initiative Friday to use smartphones to trace coronavirus contacts to battle the pandemic.

The move brings together the largest mobile operating systems in an effort to use smartphone technology to track and potentially contain the global COVID-19 outbreak.

Smartphones powered by Apple software and Google-backed Android operating system would be able to exchange information with a joint “opt in system.”

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The tech giants will collaborate on a “contact tracing” system which can identify people in contact with an infected person. and alert users.

“All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems,” the companies said in a joint statement.

The first step will be release next month of software interface and operating system-level technology to let iPhones and Android-powered phones share information through applications provided by public health authorities, according to the companies.

The move comes with governments around the world studying or implementing measures to use smartphone location technology to identify people with the virus and keep them from infecting others, even as the efforts raise privacy and civil liberties concerns.

Apple and Google said they will work together in the coming months to use standard Bluetooth capabilities relied on by wireless devices such as earbuds to be used to let handsets exchange information.

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Apple and Google contended that “privacy, transparency, and consent” were top priorities in the joint initiative.

“All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems,” the longtime rivals said in the release.

“Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.”

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COVID-19 has shelter providers scrambling to protect homeless people against the coming winter weather

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SEATTLE — On any given day before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mary’s Place in Seattle had more families calling to ask for shelter than it had beds available.That changed after the outbreak hit and state and local eviction moratoriums went into place to help people struggling financially. This summer, Mary’s Place had space for any homeless family seeking help — even though it lost almost a quarter of its 675 beds after closing shelters where people couldn’t keep their distance.“They were able to stay in their homes … or they were finding other solutions,” said James Flynn, chief program officer at... (more…)

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Florida to investigate all COVID-19 deaths after questions about ‘integrity’ of data

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida, which has reported the deaths of more than 16,400 people from COVID-19, now says the public may not be able to trust any of those numbers.The state Department of Health on Wednesday ordered an investigation of all pandemic fatalities, one week after House Speaker Jose Oliva slammed the death data from medical examiners as “often lacking in rigor” and undermining “the completeness and reliability of the death records.”House Democrats then blasted the House Republicans’ report as an insult to coronavirus victims and an attempt “to downplay the death toll.”The pol... (more…)

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Suicides never actually went up under COVID-19 as Trump suggested: report

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President Donald Trump has spent the better part of the past several months justifying the reopening despite the COVID-19 pandemic by saying that people are dying whether it was from the coronavirus or something else.

“I mean, we have never closed the country before, and we have had some pretty bad flus, and we have had some pretty bad viruses" Trump said at a Fox News town hall in March. “You’re going to have suicides by the thousands.”

“People get tremendous anxiety and depression, and you have suicides over things like this when you have terrible economies. You have death," he said at a press briefing that same month. "Probably and — I mean, definitely — would be in far greater numbers than the numbers that we’re talking about with regard to the virus.”

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