New York’s new COVID Alert app will tell you if you’ve come in contact with a positive person

Posted On Thu, October 1, 2020 By

Posted On Thu, October 1, 2020 By In City Living, Technology

Screenshots from the app on iPhone

Amid an uptick in cases in several clusters in Brooklyn and Rockland County, the New York Department of Health has launched a new, free app that will tell you if you’ve come in contact with a COVID-positive person. COVID Alert NY is available as of today for iPhone and Android. Using your phone’s Bluetooth technology, it will alert you if you’ve been within six feet of an infected person for more than 10 minutes.

In a press conference call today, Governor Cuomo said he believes the app is the first of its kind in the nation. It cost $700,000 to develop and was paid for through a combination of federal dollars and support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The Bluetooth technology–which senses proximity to other phones–was developed by Google and Apple in conjunction with MIT. The Linux Foundation and Tech:NYC also collaborated on the app.

The technology works to sense “close contact”–that within six feet and for at least 10 minutes (it ignores people who you just pass by or were farther than six feet from). When your phone senses close contact, it exchanges a secure random code with the other person’s phone, and your phone stores this close contact code in a list. If a person tests positive, the Department of Health contacts them and gives them a password that they can enter into the app that will then alert people moving forward. The DOH will also ask the positive person if he or she is willing to share their app’s list of close contacts to alert those they’ve been in contact with previously. It’s completely voluntary and no names or privacy information will be shared, which is the reason the app was developed with Bluetooth technology instead of GPS.

In addition, the app provides a symptom tracker and the latest data for your county. Also today, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey launched a similar app called COVID Alert NJ. He and Governor Cuomo joined Pennsylvania and Delaware in creating a regional COVID Alert app network that operates across state lines.

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