Starting today, Utah’s Department of Health Center for Health Data and Informatics is launching COVID-19 exposure notifications, using the Apple and Google framework.
Utahns (and, yes, that’s a real world) can opt in to receive and share notifications about possible COVID-19 exposures. Smartphone users will receive three alerts over the next week encouraging them to turn on the notification system.
“Contact tracing is an important part of how public health responds and stops disease outbreaks. People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are more at risk of getting infected and making others sick,” said director Navina Forsythe.
Exposure Notifications is a form of electronic contact tracing that uses encrypted or anonymous tokens exchanged through your phone and the phones of those around you to keep an encrypted log of who you’ve been in contact with. The service doesn’t track the location of the smartphone user and instead relies on anonymized interactions through Bluetooth technology.
When two people have activated Exposure Notifications on their smartphones and come in close proximity to one another, they exchange anonymized “tokens” that log that close interaction for 14 days. A verification code is sent to individuals who test positive for COVID-19 by the Utah Department of Health.
Forsythe says that code can then be entered into the Exposure Notification system by the individual who tests positive to alert others who came into close contact with them that they were possibly exposed to COVID-19. Anyone who was possibly exposed will be asked to watch for symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested. Users of Exposure Notification never know the identities of the person who tested positive or who was notified about a possible exposure.
The Apple-Google developed coronavirus contact tracing app has saved thousands of lives in England and Wales, according to the Financial Times.
Last year Apple and Goole released application programming interfaces [APIs] that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps are available for users to download via their respective app stores. Apple and Google have also worked to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms.