A new app has been launched to alert New Yorkers of potential COVID-19 exposure.
COVID Alert NY will work as a contact tracing tool that will notify users if they recently spent more than 10 minutes within six feet of someone who tested positive, will notify others if the user tests positive and will track trends in communities. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced the launch of COVID Alert NY and COVID Alert NJ on Oct. 1.
The app is available to download from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store for anybody over the age of 18 who lives, works or attends college in New York. SUNY New Paltz does not have any current plans to use this app for contact tracing.
“We have a very exciting announcement that has taken a lot of work and it’s really creative and smart and I think it can make a big difference. This is a technology-based contact tracing app. Testing is only as good as your contact tracing,” Gov. Cuomo said in a press release. “Testing is to identify a person, so you can isolate and quarantine that person and then find the connections from that person, and that’s contact tracing. We have about 15,000 people statewide who do contact tracing, they call them disease detectives. But we’ve been looking for a technology-based solution.”
After users opt to receive exposure notifications, the COVID Alert NY works by using Bluetooth technology to sense when the user spends over 10 minutes within 6 feet of another person who has the app. “This is ‘close contact.’ It’s long enough and close enough for you to catch the virus,” according to the app.
Without collecting or sharing any names, locations or phone numbers, the app exchanges a secure random code with the other user’s phone when close contact is sensed. Your phone then stores this code in a list.
If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they will receive a call from a public health representative and will be asked if they are willing to share their app’s list of close contact codes so the other users can be notified. Other users will not be made aware of who tested positive, only that they’ve been exposed to the virus.
According to the press release, “the COVID Alert apps do not use GPS location data. The Exposure Notification System uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to detect when another phone with the same app is within 6 feet. Proximity is measured, but not geographic location. COVID Alert app users must explicitly choose to turn on exposure notifications — and can turn it off at any time.”
The app ignores people who pass by other users — for instance, quickly on the sidewalk — or who are not within 6 feet of other users, so users will not be notified if these people test positive.
The COVID Alert NY app also works in conjunction with similar apps in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. If New Yorkers travel to these other states and get exposed, they will be notified.You can download the COVID Alert NY app here.