On. Nov. 30, Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health launched the app WA Notify. The Washington Exposure Notifications will alert smartphone users of nearby residences exposed to COVID-19, without releasing personal information.

“Secure, private and anonymous exposure notification technology is an important tool for Washington,” Inslee said. “We’ve deployed WA Notify in 29 languages so as many Washington residents as possible can protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities. I encourage everyone to start using WA Notify today so we can continue to work together to contain this virus.”

As posted on DOH’s official site, WA Notify, if activated, will exchange anonymous codes with nearby phones who have also enabled the app. Patients who’ve recently tested positive for COVID will be asked by public health officials if they wish to use the app. If so, their code will anonymously alert those who’ve spent a significant amount of time with said patient regarding their potential exposure.

“If WA Notify detects you may have been exposed, a notification on your phone will direct you to a website with information about what you should do next,” DOH stated. “This includes how and where to get tested, information about keeping yourself and those close to you safe, and resources to answer your questions.”

For users concerned with privacy, DOH informed that the only piece of information being shared from users’ smartphones is the randomly generated codes they’ve entered. “We will not voluntarily collect or share any of your information with anyone, unless you choose to enter a verification code,” DOH stated. 

“If you do so, WA Notify will share your random codes with other smartphones that have been near your smartphone. The verification code cannot be linked back to you by someone who does not have access to your smartphone.”

DOH added that WA Notify is free and voluntary, meaning users have the choice of opting in. “You can opt-out at any time,” DOH stated. “Simply turn the feature off or delete the app. All random codes the phone has stored from other nearby users will be deleted and cannot be recovered.”

WA Notify can be found and installed through users’ Apple or Google app stores; this app will not self-download onto users’ phones. The app only works, however, on iPhones containing iOS versions 13.7 or later, along with 13.5: 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, Xr, Xs, Xs Max, X, SE second generation, and 8, 8 Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, SE first generations. Android users whose phones supports Bluetooth Low Energy or versions six and above can also download the app.

“Studies have found that the more people who use exposure notification, the greater the benefit,” DOH stated. “Models based on three counties in Washington state show that even a small number of people there using WA Notify would reduce infections and deaths. Just like wearing masks, physical distancing and keeping gatherings small, WA Notify is another tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

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