Just a week after nearby Pennsylvania announcing its own mobile technology solution to aid in its fight to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the states of New York and New Jersey have launched their own contact-tracing apps.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy officially launched the Covid Alert NY and Covid Alert NJ exposure notification mobile apps in their respective states that they will serve as crucial tools to supplement the effort to trace and contact individuals subject to a Covid exposure.
With the launch, New York and New Jersey join Pennsylvania and Delaware in creating a regional Covid Alert app network that the states say will now operate across state lines. Connecticut has also announced it will launch the Exposure Notification System in the coming weeks.
The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BTE) and API technology from Google and Apple to allow mobile phones with the app to recognise when they are near other phones also running the application and then securely and anonymously alert users who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 and also has the app downloaded on their phone. Close proximity is defined as within six feet for 15 minutes or more.
The apps use exposure notification system technology to detect if users have been in close contact with another person who later tested positive for Covid-19.
The apps use Exposure Notification System technology developed by Google and Apple based on Bluetooth Low Energy to notify users if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, defined as within six feet for at least 10 minutes.
The system will then send a notification to the phone called a Covid-19 Exposure Alert from which users will be given public health guidance along with appropriate next steps to stay safe and prevent community spread like self-isolation and getting tested. Proximity is measured, but not geographic location. Covid Alert app users must explicitly choose to turn on exposure notifications – and can turn it off at any time.
Covid Alert NY and Covid Alert NJ also provide users with the latest information about Covid-19 in their states, including publicly reported testing data. In addition, the app features a Health Log where users can anonymously record daily symptoms.
The Covid Alert NY and Covid Alert NJ apps will work in conjunction with similar apps in Delaware and Pennsylvania, allowing New Yorkers to continue to receive exposure notifications when exposed to residents of those states. If a New York or New Jersey State resident travels to one of those states and is exposed to someone with Covid-19 who has an equivalent app, the resident will receive a notification.
All four apps use technology created by Irish software developer NearForm. “Built with privacy at its core, the Covid Alert app puts power in people’s hands to fight against Covid-19,” said NearForm CEO Cian Ó Maidin.
“In using open source peer-reviewed technology, interoperable with Pennsylvania and Delaware, the States of New York and New Jersey will allow citizens to engage, protect each other and break transmission chains. This privacy preserving approach has already been successfully rolled out across borders in Ireland and parts of the UK.”
The mobile apps are available to anyone 18 or older who lives, works or attends college in New York or New Jersey and are available for download from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Covid Alert NY is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Bengali, Korean, Russian and Haitian Creole.
Commenting on the launch of the apps along with Governor Cuomo, Governor Murphy added: “Over the course of our public health emergency, we’ve called for a shared sense of personal responsibility to support our contact tracing efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19.
“With the launch of Covid Alert NJ and our regional app network, New Jerseyans and residents in our neighbouring states can support our fight against Covid-19 simply by downloading an application on their phone. 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, then better we cafight this pandemic.”