The contact tracing app set up by Apple and Google is up and running, but is not actually operational in very many states. North Dakota is one of only 11 states where the app is fully functional.

The app has run aground nationally amid social media rumors. State officials have said repeatedly that the app is designed to protect privacy and that it is not being used to trace or keep track of anyone.

Improved contact tracing is a key element in North Dakota’s efforts to keep businesses open, Gov. Doug Burgum has said. By more quickly identifying and isolating COVID-19 cases, the state can avoid another costly shutdown while still protecting the lives of those vulnerable to the disease.

North Dakota actually offers two apps, and both are free. The second is described as a diary, to help users keep track of where they’ve been in the last 14 days. It was based off the Bison tracker app.

You can find both of the free apps online at https://ndresponse.gov/covid-19-resources/care19, along with an explainer for how each works.

Here are more developments this week that seek to help people take control of the fight against coronavirus:

Bioscience grants for COVID-19 research

North Dakota has $577,800 left from a $5 million pot of seed money to support coronavirus research. These can include virus screening technologies, antibody therapies, immunotherapies, and sanitation techniques.

Among the proposals that will be considered for a grant are COVID-19 rapid antibody tests, Nanodisc-based anti-SARS-Cov-2 vaccines, a computational platform to detect autoimmunity in COVID-19 patients and several others.

The CARES Act Bioscience Grant Program Committee will meet at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 6 to consider qualified applicants for the funding.

ConnectLabs assembling temperature scanners

A Fargo-based company called ConnectLabs is assembling no-contact, smart temperature scanning kiosks, which produce accurate temperature readings for businesses. The devices can scan either the face or wrist, providing businesses with a way to screen those entering its business quickly and accurately for a fever.

ConnectLabs is on Facebook at https://bit.ly/34uB36W.

HHS awards North Dakota grant for minority health care

Health and Human Services has awarded the North Dakota Department of Health a $300,000 grant to improve health outcomes for minority populations in the state. The grants will help boost testing capacity.

CDC, HHS work on wastewater surveillance

The Centers for Disease Control and Health and Human Services are developing a national wastewater surveillance system. That decision follows on media reports of how the University of Arizona used data from dorm by dorm wastewater tests to pinpoint and stop a coronavirus outbreak just days after students returned to school. All 311 students in the affected dormitory were tested, and two asymptomatic students were identified and isolated.

This technique is not actually new. It was used once upon a time to identify polio outbreaks as well.

North Dakota is looking to get in on the act — Governor Doug Burgum mentioned wastewater surveillance at a recent coronavirus briefing.

More details about the CDC/HHS effort are online at https://bit.ly/34sR8u8.

Company pursuing approval for first antiviral surface coating

The EPA has approved a public health emergency exemption for a surface coating that continuously kills viruses on surfaces, including SARS-Cov-2, with a single spray.

The non-toxic coating is applied with an electrostatic spray and provides “always on” protection on treated surfaces. An independent lab study found it effective against human coronaviruses for 90 days.

The application was submitted for Allied BioScience by the Texas Department of Agriculture. Texas is so far the first state with a Section 18 waiver for the product, but the company is pursuing a waiver in all 50 states.

Read more about SurfaceWise2 online at https://bit.ly/30ydmK8.

FDA lists unsafe sanitizers

The FDA is keeping a list of hand sanitizers consumers should avoid for safety reasons, such as containing known contaminants like 1-propanol, which can be toxic and life-threatening if ingested.

Other hand sanitizers have made the list because they do not contain enough of the proper active ingredients, or they were tested and found to have microbial contamination.

The list is online at https://bit.ly/30AjIIF.

Charitable relief grants available to families of health care workers lost to COVID-19

The Brave of Heart Fund is offering charitable relief grants to the families of frontline workers lost to COVID-19. The fund was launched by New York Life and Cigna. Visit https://www.braveofheartfund.com/ for details.

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