Va. first state to launch COVID-19 tracking app
All users on Covidwise remain anonymous; notified when potentially exposed
Virginia on Wednesday became the first state in the nation to launch an app that offers alerts to people who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
The app, Covidwise, is available for Apple and Android devices. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology (which does not drain phone batteries) and does not track user location or collect personal information. Users are alerted when they may have been exposed and are notified to get tested.
“It doesn’t track you at all,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “It doesn’t rely on GPS or your personal information. While we want everyone to download it, it is voluntary.”
Exposure Notifications System: Helping Health Authorities fight COVID-19 video by Google LLC
After a user is opted into receiving notifications from the app, the notification system will generate an anonymous token for the device. The anonymous tokens change every 10 to 20 minutes to ensure anonymity.
Surrounding phones exchange these tokens and on a daily basis the app will download a list of anonymous tokens associated with COVID-19 cases and checks against the list of anonymous tokens it has encountered in the past 14 days. If there is a match, the app will notify the user that they could have been exposed and to contact the local public health authority.
“The idea behind the Covidwise app is that if you realize you’ve been exposed you can get tested to find out if you have the virus,” Northam said in a statement.
The Virginia Department of Health encourages employers, businesses, schools, associations and groups in Virginia to promote the app and created a free content library, which includes graphics to share on social media.
“The more Virginians know about and use Covidwise, the greater the likelihood that individuals will receive timely exposure notifications that lead to effective disease prevention,” according to the VDH.