A team of FIU researchers hope a do-it-yourself contact tracing tool they created last year will help disrupt the surge of new COVID-19 cases and the highly transmissible Delta variant.
Contact tracing remains an important tactic to stopping the spread of COVID-19 — along with vaccines, wearing face masks and testing. Contact tracing involves asking infected individuals about who they had contact with so those individuals can be notified of their potential exposure.
CogTracer is a web-based tool that enhances traditional contact tracing. It’s private and anonymous. It’s available in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Swedish. And everyone can easily use it — even children.
“We know there’s uncertainty, worry, and stress with the new variant, particularly surrounding the start of the new school year,” said FIU psychologist Deborah Goldfarb, who helped create CogTracer. “We created Cogtracer to be user-friendly, so it should be a tool that is accessible for all ages.”
Unlike traditional contact tracing, CogTracer uses science-based techniques to help users remember contacts they might have otherwise forgotten. It is based on research the team conducted on contact tracing interviews, where they found that applying interviewing techniques used in the legal field increased the number of contacts reported.
A standard contact tracing interview may ask someone to list their contacts with minimal follow-up prompts. CogTracer dives deeper.
It uses techniques, such as asking users to mentally relive an experience by closing their eyes and visualizing themselves at a specific time and place. It also provides simple, easily understandable clues like “babysitter” or “exercise” to cue people to think about activities and people they may not easily recall.
"These cues may be particularly beneficial in helping children understand the types of contacts that are important for such interviews," Goldfarb said.
Currently, the researchers are finalizing the results of their studies on the science behind CogTracer.
For more information or to use CogTracer, please click here.