Rhode Island on Tuesday launched a free app to boost contact tracing efforts as the state reported its largest single-day death toll from the novel coronavirus.
In a news conference, Gov. Gina Raimondo said the "Crush COVID" app could become a key part of the administration's response to the coronavirus by helping identify "hot spots" and providing vital resources.
The app has an optional "location diary" through which users can record the locations they have visited and people they have been with. That data is stored on the user's phone only and is automatically deleted after 20 days.
Residents who test positive for the virus are contacted by health authorities. Those who have the app will be asked if they would be willing to share their location diary with the health department, she said.
Raimondo said that information would be shared with health department without the user's name, and would be used to boost contact tracing efforts.
The governor said it was "completely your choice" whether to you download the app and use the diary feature, but urged people to do so.
"If everyone's on it we can quickly identify hot spots, get everybody tested and everybody (who tests positive) in isolation," she said.
The health department will provide information and updates on the app, available on the Apple and Google app stores, Raimondo said.
On Tuesday, health officials announced 26 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing the state's death toll to 532. There were 134 new cases of the disease, bringing the statewide total to 12,951.
Despite Tuesday's numbers, Raimondo insisted the data remained a "good news story" and that the state was seeing an overall decline in cases.
The state has been in the first phase of its reopening process since May 8, when its stay-at-home order expired. In this phase, social gatherings are limited to five people, but some business activity has resumed with restrictions in place.
Raimondo said the state remained on track to reopen child care centers June 1, adding authorities were working with such facilities to make sure they were prepared to follow safely guidelines.
The governor said the administration would distribute 50,000 masks to child care facilities across the state ahead of their reopening.
The moves were the latest steps in Raimondo's bid to safely restart the economy.
Raimondo announced Monday that East Matunuck and Scarborough state beaches would reopen in time for Memorial Day with restrictions in place.
At both beaches, there will be limited parking spots, no lifeguards on duty, no concessions and no access to bathrooms or changing rooms, Raimondo said. On the plus side, visitors to the beaches will not have to pay.
Raimondo said the administration has been working with an advisory group of faith leaders across the state on how to safely reopen and while many people have been creative by celebrating in their cars and online, the hope is to get houses of worship open by the end of the month.
The governor said exact details will be provided later in the week but houses of worship will not be able to distribute Holy Communion and no hymnals or other papers will be allowed in church pews.
More on the Coronavirus in Rhode Island
Restaurants in Rhode Island on Monday began to offer outdoor dining to customers in the state's latest move to cautiously reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The governor said moving between phases is dependent on hospital capacity, the number of new hospitalizations, the rate of spread of the novel coronavirus and the doubling rate of hospitalizations.