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Apple and Google phones can help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Thanks to new technology, a person can now receive a pop-up notification on their phone if they were close to someone who later tested positive for the virus, according to a CNN report on Nov. 26, 2020.
State health department apps that use Bluetooth technology to detect when a person’s phone has been in closet contact with an infected person’s phone.
These apps will not keep a person safe from the coronavirus; they notify phones after a person has been exposed. They could prevent another person from becoming infected if the person notified is self-quarantining.
The coronavirus tracking app seems popular as millions of users are downloading it. Health officials believe the apps will be particularly useful in tracking coronavirus transmission in areas where people do not know one another, like on a bus, train, or supermarket.
How the Coronavirus Notification App Works
Andriod and iPhone devices have rapidly changing anonymous codes that ping other phones when the Bluetooth is activated. Once a user “opts-in” they will receive notifications.
When someone who uses the app tests positive for the coronavirus, the health department sends them a PIN to enter into their phone. The system will send out an alert to any other phone that was nearby in the past 14 days — usually within 6-feet or less. The alert tells the recipient to quarantine and call their health provider.
If you test positive, you can easily and anonymously notify others to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Apps are designed to assess a user’s risk based on the decibel level of the Bluetooth — the algorithm determines the distance between two devices based on the signal strength. A second factor used to assess risk is the duration of time spent near the other phone.
States with Coronavirus Apps
At this time, 15 states are using the coronavirus exposure notification system:
- Alabama’s GuideSafe™ app was designed by a team at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), part of The University of Alabama System.
- Colorado’s app, CO Exposure Notifications, is available in English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Amharic, and Russian.
- Connecticut named its app COVID Alert CT. The Connecticut Department of Public Health states the app is intended for users at least 18 years of age.
- Delaware also uses the simplified COVID Alert DE.
- Michigan’s app is MI COVID. Stay safe and protect each other.
- Minnesota named its app COVIDaware MN. The website mentions the app’s partners include PathCheck Foundation and the Association of Public Health Laboratories.
- Maryland’s coronavirus tracker app is MD COVID Alert.
- Nevada COVID Trace explains using the app is optional; it can be turned off at any time.
- New Jersey uses the generic COVID Alert with letters identifying the state — COVID Alert NJ.
- New York’s app name is COVID Alert, NY.
- North Carolina named their app SlowCOVIDNC.
- North Dakota’s CARE19 is the result of a partnership between the North Dakota Department of Health and ProudCrowd, “creators of the popular Bison Tracker app,” according to their website.
- Pennsylvania, COVID Alert PA offers symptom tracking, daily check-in, and Penn. coronavirus updates.
- Virginia’s app name is COIVDWISE.
- Wyoming’s app is CARE19.
- Washington, DC’s app is DC CAN.
Oregon, California, Washington, and Hawaii have launched pilot programs and are not yet universally available.
Using the coronavirus detection app is completely voluntary; it is not active until the user completes the opt-in step. Users can turn off the app or opt-out at will. Google and Apple will disable the coronavirus tracking alert app when it is no longer needed.
By working together and using every tool at our disposal, we can protect our communities and flatten the curve.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
CNN: Your phone can send you an alert if you were near someone who has coronavirus; by Faith Karimi
Websites for each state’s app
Featured Image Courtesy of etnyk’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Uncalno Tekno’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License