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NY, NJ launch COVID exposure apps

New York and New Jersey have launched complementary COVID exposure apps to supplement public health officials’ efforts to trace and contact individuals who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

With the Oct. 1 launch, New York and New Jersey join Pennsylvania and Delaware in a regional COVID Alert app network, allowing New Yorkers to receive exposure notifications when exposed to residents of those states who have activated their state’s app. Connecticut announced it will also launch an  exposure notification app in the coming weeks. 

Users can download the free mobile iOS and Android apps from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. COVID Alert NY is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Bengali, Korean, Russian and Haitian Creole.

Like the COVID Alert app launched by Virginia in August, the New York and New Jersey apps use the exposure notification protocol developed by Google and Apple that does not rely on personal information or location data. When the app senses a close contact – within six feet for more than 10 minutes -- the user’s phone exchanges a secure random code via Bluetooth with the nearby person’s phone – provided both users have activated the app.

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 hear from public health contact tracers who ask if they are willing to anonymously notify their "close contacts" by uploading their app's anonymous close contact codes. Each day, the app compares users’ list of close contact codes to the list of codes associated with COVID-positive app users. When there's a match, app users get an exposure alert, along with information on appropriate next steps like self-quarantining and getting tested.

“We have about 15,000 people statewide who do contact tracing, they call them disease detectives,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “But we've been looking for a technology-based solution. And today, we are announcing an app that you can download for free from the app store called COVID Alert NY."

"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," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said. "The more phones that have the app, the better we can fight this pandemic."

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