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Waze for Viruses

It is now clear that combating the COVID-19 pandemic will be a long-term battle. One of the best weapons may be a system analogous to Waze (the popular information-sharing app for road traffic), which would provide everyone with real-time actionable intelligence regarding where the virus lies in wait.

WASHINGTON, DC – COVID-19 infection rates are rising in much of the United States. Even if the US can prevent outbreaks in the South and Southwest from worsening during the summer, experience with other coronaviruses counsels preparation for a potentially major onslaught during the fall. We know what to expect across the Northern Hemisphere: many people can become infected, but it is older people and those in poor health who are most at risk of death.

To make all vulnerable people significantly safer requires sustainable testing strategies, increased willingness to wear masks when necessary and adhere to social-distancing rules, and rapid scaling-up of relevant technology. That includes a system analogous to Waze (the popular information-sharing app for road traffic), which would provide everyone with real-time actionable intelligence regarding where the virus lies in wait.

The malign power of this virus is that people can be infective without showing symptoms. As a result, even parts of the world where prevalence is currently low must remain continually on guard.

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