New York officials launched a new smartphone app on Thursday that alerts users if they are within six feet apart from someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. As hot spots of coronavirus cases rise in Brooklyn, Orange, and Rockland counties, New York’s COVID-19 positive rate remains at 1.2% in the last 24 hours.
The app named “COVID Alert NY” is free and now available in Apple App’s Store and Google Play Store. This app cannot obtain personal data of the users to preserve privacy, as the longtime advisor who worked on the app’s development, Larry Schwartz, said to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also launched the NJ counterpart of the app called “COVID Alert NJ” to join New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware on this movement. Connecticut would also soon follow the launching, but the date of launching was still uncertain.
“We have about 15,000 people statewide who do contact tracing. We call them disease detectives. But we’ve been looking for a technology-based solution… The app will know where a person who tested positive was through their cell phone, and the app can tell you if you were within six feet of that person.”Governor Andrew Cuomo
This app aims to enhance contact tracing, a process where medical personnel contact people who tested positive for the virus to quarantine and trace the person they know who had contact with an infectious individual. This method is an effective strategy to help suppress outbreaks that need the pandemic’s execution.
To prove the app’s anonymity, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, stated that the app only uses Bluetooth technology instead of location tracking technology to detect close infectious people through phones. Meanwhile, this app can only be available to 18 years old and older who live, work, or attend college in the said states, having English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Bengali, Russian, and Haitian Creole languages.
Adoption is also crucial for this app’s efficiency as the more people install the app, the more phones that will look out for the app’s signals. A study suggested that a 60% adoption rate is necessary to amplify the app purposefully. However, Apple and Google representatives also presented research that if 15% of the people install the COVID Alert app and the emergence of traditional contact tracing, it could reduce Coronavirus infections.