New York and New Jersey have joined a handful of other states in launching contact tracing apps for COVID-19.
On Thursday (October 1), the two states each launched their own contact-tracing apps called “NY COVID Alert” and “NJ COVID Alert,” respectively. These apps, which keep user identities anonymous, are based on new technology developed by Google and Apple. They use Bluetooth to connect to nearby phones and alert users if they have been in contact. close with someone who has been infected with the coronavirus.
Since the very beginning of the pandemic, contact tracing has played an important role in controlling the spread of the virus. Contact tracing involves identifying people with COVID-19, determining who they have come into close contact with, and notifying all of those people so they can self-quarantine or get tested before transmitting. the virus to others. Most of these efforts have been led by people making phone calls.
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“We have about 15,000 people across the state doing contact tracing. They call them disease detectives,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a briefing on Thursday. “But we were looking for a technology-based solution.”
The contact tracing app “knows where your cell phone is, the app will know where someone who tested positive via their cell phone was, and the app can tell you if you were within 6 feet of that person” , Cuomo said. “He doesn’t give names, he doesn’t give any information about private life [and] it is voluntary.”
Here’s how it works: When you’ve spent more than 10 minutes within 6 feet of another person with the app, which is “long enough and close enough for you to catch the virus,” your phone exchanges a “safe and “random code” with the other person’s phone, according to the COVID Alert NY app. Phones will store these random codes in a list.
If you end up testing positive for COVID-19, a public health official will call you and ask if you’d be willing to share the app’s list of random codes to help protect others. “Sharing your list is secure and private,” according to the app’s descriptions. “The app never reveals who you are to anyone.” Additionally, the app will constantly compare its own list against the list of infected codes, and if there is a match, it will send a notification to the person’s phone, warning you that you may have been in close contact with an infected person. You also have the option to track your own symptoms on the apps.
A handful of other states have their own contact tracing apps, including Alabama, Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina and Arizona, according to the New York Times.
Apps launched in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, New Jersey and one soon to be launched in Connecticut will work together, Cuomo said. “So even if you are traveling in the metropolitan area, it will tell you if you have been in contact with someone,” with COVID-19, he added.
The new app “will not only take contact tracing to a new level, but it will bring convenience to people,” he added.
Yet apps will only work effectively if enough people download and use them. Other countries such as France, Germany, Ireland and South Korea have already launched their own contact-tracing apps with varying success in getting people to download the apps, according to CNBC.
Originally published on Live Science.