Microsoft engineer's football app adopted as statewide contact tracer in North Dakota

Microsoft software engineer Tim Brookins unexpectedly used the backbone from the app he designed to track football fans' migration to build a contact tracing app now being deployed throughout North Dakota.

Toward the beginning of the pandemic, Mr. Brookins texted North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who is an old colleague, to see if he could assist in the state's efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. He quickly began meeting with state officials to develop two contact tracing apps that draw from the one he designed to track football fans' migration from North Dakota to Texas for the national championship.

The first app, called Care19, collects location data and produces a list of the places a person has been in the last two weeks. Users can edit the list if they spot inaccuracies, and its data is deleted after each two-week cycle. 

The app is used to help contact tracers track where infected patients have been so they can instruct people their patients may have interacted with to isolate. However, only 4 percent of North Dakotans currently have the app downloaded, and more engagement will be necessary to garner positive results on a wide scale.

Mr. Brookins is also working on a second app, which draws from Apple and Google's exposure notification model to alert users when they have come near someone infected with COVID-19.

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