With countries across the world witnessing a spike in coronavirus cases as temperatures drop, mobile phones might be able to help.
Millions of Americans now have the ability to receive pop-up notifications from local health authorities when they’ve spent some time close to someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.
The alerts come through state health department apps which are available for download on Google Play and Apple App Store. They use Bluetooth technology to detect when a mobile phone, technically speaking, has been in close contact with an infected person’s phone.
COVID-19 exposure notification app now available in 15 states
While more Americans are signing up, these apps are not yet available in many states. As of this writing, the COVID-19 exposure notification system is available in 15 states-Alabama Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wyoming, and Washington, DC.
In fact, countries across the world are also using similar Bluetooth technology for notifications including Northern Ireland, Switzerland, and Ireland.
Health authorities assert that the alerts could be beneficial in cases where a person infected with COVID-19 has been in contact with strangers — for instance, in public utility vehicles like buses or trains — who did not know they were exposed to the virus.
The alerts utilize software built by Apple and Google into iPhones and Android devices to detect when people (or their mobile phones) get into close contact with each other.
While some may think about privacy issues over this move, authorities said the software will track encounters between people in a way that’s anonymous. More importantly, they won’t be able to store your location.
How to set up the COVID-19 exposure notification app
To get started receiving alerts and notifications, Android users should turn on Bluetooth and download their state’s COVID-19 notification app.
Meanwhile, for iPhone users, the system is already embedded in settings. Users, however, should hover to the exposure notifications and make sure availability alerts are turned on.
When a person who uses the COVID-19 notification app tests positive for the dreaded virus, he or she will receive a PIN from a health authority to enter into their mobile phone.
Other mobile phones that came in contact in the previous two weeks, usually within six feet or less, for at least 15 minutes, will receive a notification telling them to call a health provider and undergo quarantine.
As of this posting, total COVID-19 cases in the United States have climbed to 13 million with 263,000 deaths recorded.
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