Delta variant creates need for more contact tracing tools

Florida International University in Miami-Dade County creates app to trace
Posted at 3:34 PM, Sep 06, 2021

MIAMI — School is back and that means your children may be coming into contact with more people.

"As a mother-scientist, I know this can be a really stressful time for people, and so we wanted to make sure it got out into the community," said Dr. Deborah Goldfarb, an assistant professor of psychology at Florida International University.

Goldfarb knows how difficult the pandemic has been with children, and is now taking action to find a finish line. She's part of a team that’s spent the past year testing an app called COG-TRACER that’s aimed at helping you contact trace through the science of memory.

"We are primarily psychologists, and a lot of us study memory and interviewing,” Goldfarb said. “I myself study memory and interviewing with kids, so one of the questions we had, are the techniques that we use normally to help improve memory, could we use them in contact tracing to help stem the flow and spread of COVID- 19?”

Goldfarb explained the cues, especially when it comes to children, involve repeated recall attempts, recalling things in reverse order, or a change of venue.

The app works with you to remember more of your contacts and helps you use your electronic devices to find clues to contact trace.

“It will take you through the past six days and questions about who you may have had contacts with,” Goldfarb said. “It will give you category type questions, who comes into your home, who you see at your work place. Who is at your school.”

Dr. Jacqueline Evans is also part of the team.

“By applying the science of memory to people who are COVID positive, they shouldn’t be forgetting as many of their contacts,” Evans said. “Someone is not going to remember everyone the first time they try, and so by applying techniques, to maximize recall we should have fewer forgotten contacts.”

Evans said with the delta variant, the need for these tools to contact trace is even greater.

“It’s becoming even more likely that someone who gets sick is able to transmit it to somebody else,” Evans said. “The more contagious the variant is, the more important that becomes, because you have a lot of transmission going on. That becomes a more onerous task, the more contacts people have, and it becomes more important not to miss people.”

The problem of the pandemic exists in this app as well as the real world, which is the need for group participation.

“I think that more and more people are realizing how important they individually are to the fight against COVID-19,” said Goldfarb. “I think the message is that knowledge is always power, and so giving people the knowledge that they have a risk, they’ve been exposed, and that gives people the chance to make a decision.”