State launches COVID-19 exposure notification app

VIDEO: State launches new tool to notify people if they're exposed to COVID-19

Washington state launched a statewide COVID-19 notification app Monday, which will send an “exposure alert” if you’ve been near someone who is COVID-19 positive.

The app, developed by Apple and Google, uses Bluetooth technology and software already installed on most iPhones to anonymously communicate with other phones using the same app.

It can either be enabled in iPhone settings or downloaded as an app for Android users.

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“It seems to be a very elegant and important tool in the fight against a potentially fatal disease,” said Governor Jay Inslee as he announced the system.

When WA Notify is active, it sends encrypted codes to other phones with the active app, and logs every contact for 14 days. If you spend time near someone using the app who later tests positive for COVID-19, the app will send a private alert with instructions on next steps, like testing and quarantining.

It also anonymously alerts other users you were in close contact with if you test positive for coronavirus, without sharing any of your personal information, or location.

“This has basically been built by the best people out there,” said security and privacy consultant Christopher Budd, who noted the safeguards, like keeping data only for the incubation period of 14 days.

Recent modeling indicated that in Washington state, COVID-19 infection rates could be reduced by 8% and deaths by 6% if at least 15% of the population enabled the app.

Several other states, including New York and Colorado, already use the tool, and well as countries including Ireland and Canada.