BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
New Jersey and New York launched COVID-19 exposure notification mobile apps today, Oct. 1.
The apps, COVID Alert NJ and COVID Alert NY, notify users of potential COVID-19 exposure while maintaining user privacy and security, officials said.
Users then opt-in to receive “Exposure Notifications.”
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 six 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 will never record any identifying data. All users will remain anonymous.
As users go about their day, the app will use Bluetooth to sense any “close contacts” — other app users who are within six feet of the user for more than 10 minutes.
When your app senses a close contact, your phone will exchange a secure random code with the close contact’s phone without the users’ locations and names being disclosed.
If an app user should test positive for COVID-19, a public health representative will call and ask if they are willing to anonymously notify the “close contacts” by uploading their app’s close contact codes.
Each day, the app will compare lists of close contact codes to the list of codes associated with positive COVID-19 app users. If there’s a match, the user will get an Exposure Alert, along with what to do next.
The app also provides users with up-to-date information on New Jersey reopening news, key COVID-19 metrics, and a user-friendly symptom tracking tool.
“Over the course of our public health emergency, we’ve called for a shared sense of personal responsibility to support our contact tracing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “With the launch of COVID Alert NJ and our regional app network, New Jerseyans and residents in our neighboring states can support our fight against COVID-19 simply by downloading an application on their phone. The app is free and secure, and your identity, personally identifying information, and location will never be collected.
The COVID Alert NJ app will work in conjunction with similar apps in Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania, allowing New Jerseyans to continue to receive exposure notifications when exposed to residents of those states. If a New Jersey resident travels to one of those states and is exposed to someone with COVID-19 who has an equivalent app, the resident will receive a notification.
COVID Alert NJ and COVID Alert NY were created with software developer NearForm.
“COVID-19 knows no borders, and COVID Alert NJ will help us break the chain of transmission,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “COVID Alert NJ helps expand our contact tracing efforts, along with our neighboring states, in battling the pandemic, particularly among young adults, and also protects privacy and data. The greater the participation, the more effective COVID Alert NJ will be in helping all of us to beat this virus.”