Empirical Comparison of Digital and Manual Contract Tracing Methods for COVID-19

Principal Investigator(s)

Sudha Ram, Kacey Ernst, Kristen Pogreba Brown

Target Population(s)

UA Students, Staff and Faculty who are on campus or interested in returning to campus.

Contact Information

Sudha Ram (Principal Investigator): sram@email.arizona.edu

Kacey Ernst (Co-PI): kernst@arizona.edu

Kristen Pogreba Brown (Co-PI): kpogreba@arizona.edu

Noriko Tamari (Research Assistant): norikotamari@email.arizona.edu

Yuanxia Li (Research Assistant): yuanxiali@email.arizona.edu

Project Summary, Description, or Purpose

Project Summary

Contact tracing involves monitoring people who have been exposed to a person with a confirmed infection, such as COVID-19 infections and quarantining them until they are known to be infection-free. The standard practice of manual contact tracing entails an individual being contacted by a public health official after a positive diagnosis by a clinician. This is a process that has multiple challenges, including 1) faulty recall, and 2) timeliness of notifications. Two digital strategies i.e., Bluetooth enabled exposure notification via a mobile app and prompted mobility paths for enhancing recall, can be used to extend and enhance contact tracing. Bluetooth enabled technology allow individuals to download an app on their mobile phones that leverages the Google/ Apple API. The prompted mobility pathways strategy takes advantage of the location information generated from CatCard and wifi logs to provide a tailored mobility path to student, staff, and faculty contacts on campus which can then be leveraged to help enhance recall of potential contacts during manual contact tracing. The University of Arizona is in a unique position to evaluate the relative effectiveness of these three strategies as we have developed a multi-pronged approach to contact tracing on our campuses. A robust manual contact tracing protocol is being set up in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department in coordination with Pima County Health Department, we are partnering with Covid Watch to be the initial pilot center for Bluetooth contact tracing, and we have an effort on campus that is leveraging an extensive network of geo-located wifi/ catcard system that allows for mobility paths to be constructed.

In this project we propose to answer the following research questions:

  1. How do the three contact tracing approaches differ in their outcomes such as timeliness and coverage of contacts and other metrics?
  2. How do these methods complement each other and what are their relative strengths and weaknesses?
  3. How do these methods perform overall in preserving privacy while allowing for comprehensive contact tracing? What are the tradeoffs?
  4. How acceptable are these three strategies to the community and what is an effective path to deploying comprehensive contact tracing

Recruitment Letter

Dear U of A member,

The university has adopted several contact tracing methods to help control Covid-19 spread in the community. We are a team of U of A researchers interested in understanding people’s opinions on these different contact tracing methods.

We wish to invite you if you are either on campus or interested in returning to campus to participate in our three-stage study. We are including in this message the first-stage survey, and we will send you the second-stage survey in two weeks and the third-stage survey in four weeks if you consent to participate.

It would be important for us to hear from you in all three stages, so we would really appreciate if you could devote to participation in all three stages. As an appreciation for your time and effort, we offer you the chance to enter our raffle of $25 UA Book Store Gift Card if you participate in all three stages of surveys. Three to four of our participants will be randomly picked to win the gift cards.

Your response will be analyzed anonymously, and it will take you around 15-25 minutes to finish the first-stage survey, 6-9 minutes to finish the second and third stage.

The first-stage survey is at: [Follow this link]

Or copy and paste the URL below into your internet browser: https://redcap.uahs.arizona.edu/surveys/?s=YE3JAWLLAK 

The University of Arizona reviewed this research project and found it to be acceptable, according to applicable state and federal regulations and University policies designed to protect the rights and welfare of participants in research. We deeply appreciate your time to participate in our survey. If you have any question, concern or complaint about the study, you may contact Kacey C. Ernst at kernst@email.arizona.edu or Sudha Ram at sram@email.arizona.edu