From Contact Tracing to Case Investigation to Exposure Notification: New Issue Guide Provides Insight into How Technologies May Assist and Still Need to be Tested in COVID-19 Response

July 16, 2020

ARLINGTON, VA—The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) released an issue guide to support state health officials, public health experts, and policy leaders in understanding the evolving role and functions of digital technologies in COVID-19 contact tracing and case investigation, including mobile phone-based exposure notification apps.

The comprehensive guide offers insights into privacy, security, technology, and application types, as well as community engagement considerations. It also outlines the array of technology types and options available on the market. Further, different proximity sensing technologies are compared on how well they protect privacy, ensure security, and ensure accuracy. It also includes clear recommendations on privacy, security, data collection, data storage, data use and other topics critical to public interest. The appendices include a list of currently available solutions and companies, as well as a link to an online updated list.

ASTHO has taken an active role in tracking all the new technologies that health agencies are purchasing, considering, or repurposing to assess how well they are working for the jurisdiction and whether that system can connect data across jurisdictions and in support of national response efforts.

"As COVID-19 cases increase in various jurisdictions across the country, local and state health departments will continue to rely on case investigation, contact tracing, social distancing, and isolation and quarantine until a vaccine is approved and widely available," says Mike Fraser, CEO of ASTHO. "Right now, there are a number of technology options in the market, and our goal is to assist officials in navigating not only the pros and cons of these, but also highlight other elements to consider when making a technology decision." Health agencies must also account for their workforce, standard evaluation criteria, effective healthcare and community partnerships, and technology concerns to effectively assess, select, plan and implement a technology solution that will help achieve public health goals and gain community buy-in.

Since the pandemic began, various technology companies and other organizations are repurposing existing systems as well as developing and piloting various ways technology can support case investigation and contact tracing. Some of these solutions have emerged from public-private partners, academic partnered or sponsored hackathons bringing together various sectors on specific aspects of COVID-19 response, and from existing contractual or customer relationship tools now being repurposed to address COVID-19.

The issue guide was developed in partnership with B.Next, an initiative of In-Q-Tel, and made possible by a grant from the Linux Foundation Public Health.


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.