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New York’s new app can tell you if someone nearby has COVID-19

The app can warn users so long as both sides have downloaded the app.
Written by
Collier Sutter

Cuomo announced Thursday a new smartphone app that can alert New Yorkers if they’ve come in contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus

The app called COVID Alert was made to trace and contact individuals subject to exposure.

The app tells users if they are within six feet of a person who tested positive recently for the virus, and if they had spent 10 minutes or more near that person, Cuomo explained during a press conference.

“The way it will work is when a person tests positive, the Department of Health contacts that person, asks that person if they have an iPhone, gives that person a password, that person types in their password for their phone and then any other phone that comes within six feet of that phone is on the app,” Cuomo said.

The app does not track user's movements, and no personal data is collective by the state, according to the Governor's Office. Instead, the app uses Bluetooth to pair with others who have it downloaded. 

"No names, no private information, it's voluntary," Cuomo said. "No one has access to any data besides the location of the cell phone."

COVID Alert will also work in conjunction with similar contact tracing apps in nearby states including Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

There are already 15,000 people in New York that were hired throughout the pandemic to be official contact tracers for the state, after passing an online course. Those "disease detectives" identify individuals who have been exposed to the virus and call them with instructions on how to properly quarantine. The free app COVID Alert is the technology-based solution to that, Cuomo said.

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