If you’re traveling the region this fall and into the holiday season, make sure you have your COVID Alert DE app’s bluetooth running: The Delaware app, created by the Irish firm NearForm, now has interoperable neighboring apps in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York that will alert you if you are exposed to COVID-19, defined as being within six feet of a person who has tested positive for 15 minutes or longer.
The COVID Alert apps use anonymous bluetooth data to identify when an infected person has come into contact with others without having access to personal information. When a Delaware app user tests positive for COVID-19, the state’s Division of Public Health issues them a six-digit code which is then uploaded into the app.
If the app data shows that the person who tested positive’s phone was in close vicinity to another phone using the app, an anonymous exposure alert will be sent to that phone, along with instructions to get tested and quarantine for 14 days.
“It doesn’t actually track anything to do with your location, it doesn’t know where you are, it just knows you had other phones that were in close contact,” NearForm Technical Director Colm Harte told Technical.ly in September.
Users don’t have to do anything to activate contact tracing in other states that use a NearForm COVID Alert app — the apps will automatically detect exposure, as long as the app is installed. In Delaware, there were just over 51,615 app users as of Wednesday, with between 1,000 and 2,000 users checking in on average per day.
“I want to urge more Delawareans to download the COVID Alert DE app as a way to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, especially if you work in a front-line job or are living on a college campus,” said Molly Magarik, secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, in a press release announcing the app’s surpassing 50,000 users. “If you already have the app, I urge you to use the symptom tracker every morning, especially with flu season expected to intermingle with COVID-19 during the fall and winter.”
While Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York are connected the same NearForm app customized to fit with each state’s regulations, other contact tracing apps that come out may be interoperable with them — even if they’re made by a different company — as long as they run the Gapple API, the bluetooth-based system created by Apple and Google in May after both companies banned continuous GPS location tracing in their contact tracing technology.
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