On Thursday, Oct. 1, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy came together for the release of COVID contact tracing apps, COVID Alert NY and COVID Alert NJ, to alert residents of infections in their area in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The apps utilize Bluetooth technology to sense when another person with the app is within six feet. If one of the app’s users later tests positive for COVID, the app will alert other users who spent at least ten minutes within six feet of the COVID-positive user to their exposure, allowing them to quarantine, get tested, and take other precautions to halt the spread of the infection.
But no worries; the app doesn’t work in real time, so it won’t send the crowd in the vegetable aisle of Whole Foods scrambling to avoid a COVID-positive alert, and the app also keeps its users’ personal information anonymous.
“With the launch of the COVID Alert NJ and our regional app network, New Jerseyans and residents in our neighboring states can support our fight against COVID-19 simply by downloading an application on their phone,” said Murphy. “The app is free and secure, and your identity, personally identifying information, and location will never be collected. The more phones that have the app, the better we can fight this pandemic.”
Back in April, competitors Apple and Google united to create an app with a similar purpose — to halt the spread of COVID by making more people aware of hot spots and infected people around them. According to Fred Sainz, in an article written for the Apple Newsroom, the goal was to launch “a comprehensive solution that includes application program interfaces (APIs’) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.” The apps released for New York and New Jersey, developed by software developer NearForm, uses Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification System, which can help quickly notify people who may have been recently exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID.
New York and New Jersey are following in the footsteps of countries around the world that have implemented their own form of a COVID tracking app such as Australia, China, Italy, and India.
New York Dept. of Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said, “New York and New Jersey have been two of the few states in the country that have worked tirelessly to beat COVID-19, and both have successfully brought their numbers down in comparison to the peak of the pandemic, when the tri-state area was the epicenter of the pandemic back in March and April. The COVID Alert NY technology complements the work of our contact tracing teams and will speed up the process by which New Yorkers are notified of potential exposure and provided with helpful resources on testing and social services from the State Department of Health. We urge all New Yorkers to take the simple steps and download the app today.”
If you are traveling to other states right now, or plan to do so in the near future, the app will work across state lines in unison with apps available in states such as Delaware and Pennsylvania. The state of Delaware has also expressed interest in the idea, and has announced that it will release an app for it’s own state in the weeks to come. The app is available for free via download on Apple’s App Store and Google Play for both iPhones and Androids.