Back in May, Apple and Google released technology to enable COVID-19 exposure notifications via their mobile platforms and now more people in the US can opt-in to programs based on the technology. Virginia was the first state in the US to release an app, and now New York and New Jersey as well, with COVID Alert NY (App Store, Google Play) and COVID Alert NJ (App Store, Google Play) apps arriving for iPhone and Android users.
As we’ve learned with previous rollouts, the apps rely on Bluetooth to know when they’ve been in close contact with others (about six feet for at least ten minutes). The apps exchange a code, but don’t track the user’s locations. If someone later tests positive for COVID-19, they will receive a PIN from the local health department that they can enter into the app. Once that happens, people who also use the app who were in close contact with them will receive a notification along with instructions on steps like self-quarantining or getting tested.
Particularly as people return to work or places like restaurants reopen, these apps could be helpful in letting people know they’ve been in contact with someone who tests positive, although officials caution they are not a replacement for contact tracing and social distancing. New York and New Jersey announced they’re sharing data on positives with each other, as well as Pennsylvania and Delaware to create a regional network that covers people as they live and work across the various state lines. Connecticut will join when its app launches “in the coming weeks.”
In the UK the NHS recently released an app based on the technology, while XDA-Developers dug into Google’s database to create a list of states and countries that have either released apps or are working on on.
For more information on how the technology works and how it maintains user privacy, check out Google’s information site here.