Get notifications about potential virus exposure on an app.
The Virginia Department of Health is encouraging residents to download a new smartphone app that will tell you if “you’ve likely been exposed” to COVID-19.
COVIDWISE, a free contact tracing app available on the iPhone App Store and Android Google Play Store, notifies users if they might’ve been in proximity of someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“On a daily basis, your phone downloads a list of all the anonymous tokens associated with positive COVID-19 cases and checks them against the list of anonymous tokens it has encountered in the last 14 days,” the health department stated in its five-step instructional guide about the application.
The system is supposed to convert each user into an anonymous token that transmits a signal using low-energy bluetooth technology. But keeping track of Virginia residents may lead to some privacy concerns.
“COVIDWISE does not collect, use, or store any personal identifiable information or location data,” the website FAQ section states. “The app is designed to protect your privacy. Neither your identity nor your location is shared by the app with VDH or other app users.”
So how does it work? Well, you just have to download it, and the rest is done in the background, according to Virginia's health officials.
"Your phone and the phones around you will work in the background, without draining your battery or data, to exchange these privacy-preserving anonymous tokens via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology," the state website explains. "This is a passive process that begins once you opt-in and functions without the app open."
The app has been in the works for weeks, when there was already skepticism that people would buy into contact tracing efforts.
“There’s a lot of negative publicity on the TV and media about the contact tracing and the fact that they think the government’s watching them,” Chesapeake Health District Epidemiologist Lisa Engle said in early July to WAVY. “So I don’t know how easily people will adapt to an app like that.”
Here is how Virginia residents are reacting so far on Twitter:
So apparently the Virginia Dept of Health put out Covidwise, an app that helps alert you to possible exposures and positive testing in your area. Looks like it'll only work if people use the app, though.— Mixed Girl in a Mixed Up World (@tayzerbeams) August 5, 2020
Welp.— Two-Slice Virginians for Warner 🗽👟 (@anjufordinner) August 5, 2020
It was a hopeful 15 seconds between when I learned of COVIDWISE, downloaded it, then looked for this in the FAQ.
No one has jobs > older phones > worse battery > Bluetooth off most of the time for battery conservation
Still better than nothing, so be sure to get the app! pic.twitter.com/SGxPtjchqF
They pushed that U2 album that nobody wanted on everyone's iPhones a few years back, you'd think they could also push the Covidwise tracking app as well.— Julian Carta (@Julian_Carta) August 5, 2020
I tried to download covidwise and did not get very far... pic.twitter.com/cV9CgMoDXe— Notorious RBM (@Morr_Ruth) August 5, 2020
Friends, I'm just a *little* bit of a privacy stickler. (Understatement of the year.)— Bethany Nowviskie (@nowviskie) August 5, 2020
This #COVID exposure tracing app is solid, we're first in the nation to have it, and I encourage all Virginians to use it—& urge others to do so, as well: https://t.co/ISSxQ9vpKN
Will you download the app? Tell us why or why not in the comments.