2020 has been an especially turbulent year. As the worst pandemic in a century, COVID-19 has surpassed 74 million cases worldwide, with deaths of more than 1.7 million. All indicators show that this public health crisis will follow us well into the new year despite the historic vaccine achievements. “If all goes well,” reports Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,” it’s likely we can “tiptoe toward normality” and may be able to loosen precautions in late fall or early winter of 2021.” 8
Business Adapting to COVID Challenges
During this demanding year, businesses and organizations were met with the instant need to adapt in the face of unfathomable challenges. Operations that had not previously found the need for digital presence and infrastructure found themselves shifting direction seemingly overnight. While many small businesses have suffered irreparable loss, a survey conducted by the Connected Commerce Council showed promise for those implementing increasingly digital strategies. 76% of owners reported relying more on digital tools, and one-third said that without digital technology, they would have had no choice but to shutter all or part of their business.4
For larger organizations that were already further along on the digital curve, having existing digital systems provided the foundation for implementing and maintaining new strategies. Lauren H. Cohen, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, says this gives them a unique advantage over those whose operations have not been centered in technology. Cohen asserts that while government implemented limitations could affect any business regardless of their adoption of digital systems, “…technology will be most powerfully utilized during the pandemic by those firms who apply it organization-wide to create more nimble, efficient organizations, more capable of managing the factors of production (e.g., labor, capital, supplier inputs, etc.). These firms will emerge as the long-run winners, and those firms that count their future in decades, instead of months or years.” 6
Digital Contact Tracing and Social Distancing Technologies Helps Business Get Back to Work
The Journal of the American Medical Association published research from a mathematical modeling study showing that with prompt testing, diagnosis, notification, and quarantine, contact tracing could keep COVID transmission levels under the critical threshold to facilitate a decline in new cases. When contact tracing is added to higher detection of infected individuals, a 57% reduction in the number of secondary infections can be seen.2 Unfortunately, an NPR analysis concludes the United States has only half of the over 100,000 contact tracing personnel essential to the manual contact tracing process.5 Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security notes, “It’s easy for these systems to become overwhelmed, when cases rise, they can rise quickly — much faster than a public health team can hire more tracers.” Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and a co-author of a handbook of COVID-19 policy, Danielle Allen, sees immense value in contact tracing. “The thing that’s incredibly valuable about contact tracing at this point is the literal intelligence — the knowledge and understanding — that it gives decision-makers,” Allen says.5
Contact tracing is one area in which forward-thinking organizations are looking to technological advancements to protect their employees, the public, and their ability to keep facilities open and operating. AlertTrace is a simple and affordable contact tracing system, ensuring the practice of CDC recommended guidelines for social distancing while seamlessly capturing accurate data from wearable devices. By adapting the BLE technology to this use case, AlertTrace will actively detect other AlertTrace devices within a specified and configurable range to measure these detections as contacts. If an employee tests positive for a contagious infection, the organization will view that employee’s historical anonymized contact data to alert those most at risk quickly. With user-friendly software, encrypted and secured data, and zero tracking or GPS capabilities, AlertTrace is unintrusive and privacy-centric with military-grade security. These qualities are of the utmost importance to leaders in many industries, as well as their employees. Karen Gumpel of Elite Health Medical Centers noted, “We searched and tested numerous digital contact tracing solutions to integrate with, and we landed on AlertTrace as the most scalable and efficient technology that employees are actually comfortable with. The results clearly show how staff are reminded to social distance while non-intrusive contact tracing data is collected.”
In addition to data collection, AlertTrace wearables can also alert users of instances when they do not follow social distancing guidelines, buzzing to let the user know they are in range of another wearable, and contact has been made. Manufacturing Manager Dennis Costandino of IFM Electronic, a global manufacturer of electric sensors deemed essential during the pandemic, has been utilizing this feature with his team. “The AlertTrace contact tracing solution has delivered on its promise to keep our workforce safe,” said Costandino. “Not only do the vibration alerts remind us to social distance, but we’ve had no spread of the virus in our facility because we were able to quarantine the few individuals who came into contact with infected colleagues, without having to shut down our facility or eliminate shifts.”
Since AlertTrace does not require any infrastructure, it can be deployed in a matter of hours. Devices can be issued quickly, and employees attach AlertTrace wearables to their existing badges, lanyards, belt clips, hard hats, vests, and more. With no deployment of cellphone apps or required personal phone access, AlertTrace contact tracing is effective, accurate, and simple. Utilizing US-based manufacturing and development, VOS Systems has the ability to modify firmware and hardware quickly and efficiently.
The Continued Need for Precautions in 2021
As the New Year arrives, businesses, organizations, and the public can undoubtedly look to the future with hope. With medical facilities and healthcare workers stretched thin, the promise of a vaccine for COVID-19 could provide some much-needed relief. Results show that vaccination can substantially reduce the odds of serious illness, safeguarding vulnerable lives, and reducing the universal hardships the virus has inflicted. Yet, vigilance is required during this unprecedented time. Trials from two of the leading vaccine brands only tracked instances of vaccinated people becoming ill with COVID-19, not how well the spread of coronavirus was contained. If social distancing and masking efforts are not maintained, those infected yet asymptomatic could still transmit COVID-19, despite vaccination status. 1 “It’s a race: It depends whether the virus can replicate faster, or the immune system can control it faster,” said Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Once an individual receives the vaccine, the virus should be unable to replicate as much, reducing transmissibility.1 The variable here is how much viral load the individual carries. Those with a vaccination, no symptoms, and a high viral load “would actually be, in some ways, even worse spreaders because they may be under a false sense of security,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, who represents the American Academy of Pediatrics at meetings of the Federal Advisory Committee on Immunization. “The more you reduce viral load, the less likely you are to be transmissible,” notes Dr. John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine, but “all of these are things where data trumps theory, and we need the data.” 1 Where the data is clear, is that a multipronged approach remains necessary to combat and contain COVID-19 and safeguard lives and livelihoods. According to a PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) study, the most effective intervention for reducing spread is social distancing.7 The CDC published research on the effectiveness of social distancing interventions, in which Laura Matrajt and Tiffany Leung of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center noted, “Our models suggest that social distancing can provide crucial time to increase healthcare capacity but must occur in conjunction with testing and contact tracing of all suspected cases to mitigate virus transmission.” 6
Despite the mammoth achievements in the development and ongoing deployment of vaccines for COVID-19, complacency must be avoided in order to keep the public safe. With COVID rates climbing, continued vigilance is required. Social distancing, mask wearing, and extra sanitization will likely be integral to daily life through 2021. Combining these efforts with effective contact tracing is needed to keep businesses open and employees on the job. Providing the crucial data needed to do so, AlertTrace is the versatile solution to ensure safe operations.
AlertTrace is America’s most deployed digital solution to encourage social distancing and digitize contact tracing. It was developed through collaboration between two leading IoT analytics and hardware companies, Texas based OTTOGEE and Florida based BluAzu. The user-friendly and completely unintrusive solution is manufactured and supported in the U.S with deployment across multiple federal agencies, department of defense branches, fortune 500 companies, schools, production companies, and other sectors.
- Mandavilli, Apoorva (2020, December 9). Here’s Why Vaccinated People Still Need to Wear a Mask. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/08/health/covid-vaccine-mask.html
Bilinski A, Mostashari F, Salomon JA. Modeling Contact Tracing Strategies for COVID-19 in the Context of Relaxed Physical Distancing Measures. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(8):e2019217. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.19217.
Kost, Danielle. (2020, June 11). Are Digital Organizations Better at Overcoming COVID? Harvard Business School. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/are-digital-organizations-better-at-overcoming-covid
Hatfield, Allison. (2020, November 20). 7 ways technology is helping small businesses during COVID-19. The Dallas Morning News. https://www.dallasnews.com/business/2020/11/20/7-ways-technology-is-helping-small-businesses-during-covid-19/
Simmons-Duffin, Selena. (2020. October 14). COVID-19 Contact Tracing Workforce Barely ‘Inching Up’ As Cases Surge. National Public Radio.https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/10/14/923468159/covid-19-contact-tracing-workforce-barely-inching-up-as-cases-surge
Matrajt, L., & Leung, T. (2020). Evaluating the Effectiveness of Social Distancing Interventions to Delay or Flatten the Epidemic Curve of Coronavirus Disease. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 26(8), 1740-1748. https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2608.201093
Rubin D, Huang J, Fisher BT, et al. Association of Social Distancing, Population Density, and Temperature With the Instantaneous Reproduction Number of SARS-CoV-2 in Counties Across the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(7):e2016099. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.16099
Herbert, Geoff. (2020. December 15). Covid vaccine: When can we stop wearing masks? Not soon, Dr. Fauci says. The Post Standard. https://www.syracuse.com/coronavirus/2020/12/covid-vaccine-when-can-we-stop-wearing-masks-not-soon-dr-fauci-says.html