Contact Tracing App Launched in Nevada

A new contact tracing app called, “COVID Trace” has been launched by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. The app was officially released on Monday, and the department is urging residents and tourists to download the application to their smartphones.

Virginia and Alabama were the first two states to launch a similar app, and they have seen tremendous results. The app works with both Apple and Android devices, and the two manufacturers had input when designing the product.

Contact tracing is a huge part of trying to stop the spread of COVID-19, and Nevada has struggled with this aspect of the process. Nevada, and more specifically Las Vegas, see a large number of tourists each day, and it’s hard to keep track of who might have contracted the virus.

Nevada has seen a recent surge in positive COVID-19 cases since reopening nonessential businesses in May and July. The numbers over the past week are still showing more than 500 new cases a day, but it does appear that the numbers are trending in the right direction.

People who have tested positive for COVID-19 can anonymously alert those with whom they might have had close contact. Bluetooth scanning is used to determine whether someone could be at risk for potential exposure.

The Department of Health and Human Services was quick to point out that no personal information will be stored on the app, and the hope is that a large number of people opt-in to the service. The app won’t be useful unless there is an acceptable response from residents of the state, and tourists that enter.

The other option that Nevada could take to try and flatten the curve is once again to shut down nonessential businesses, such as casinos. The casino and tourism industries are extremely vital to Nevada’s economy, and they are hoping that this new app can be another viable option.

Hotspots Could Be Announced

Governor Steve Sisolak is also considering a list of potential COVID-19 hotspots, and a number of the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip to be included in that list. Gaming floors have not shut down through the second spike in positive cases, although there is some pressure on the Governor to impose new restrictions.

The main reason that Sisolak has yet to announce these hotspot locations is that he is trying to protect each business and the economy in general. The state relies on revenue from the gaming industry, and he doesn’t want to see these casinos shut down.

One of the biggest problems with contact tracing in Las Vegas is that it is almost impossible to pinpoint where a person contracted the disease. This vagueness makes potential exposure risks harder to identify.

Hard to Stop Spread on the Strip

Last week a study was released based on cell phone data that shows movement along the Las Vegas strip is hampering the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. X-Mode and Tectonix were the companies behind the study, and they tracked visitors that were recently on the Las Vegas strip.

ProPublica was the name of the publication that ran this story, and the study showed that the Las Vegas Strip is connected to positive COVID-19 cases throughout the country. This correlation has prompted many throughout the United States to question whether Nevada should once again be shut down.

All casino properties in the state were shut down for 78 days before they were allowed to reopen in June. Even though most properties have implemented new health and safety protocols, it is clear that the virus is still being spread from tourists.


Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.