New smartphone-based notification tool alerts state residents of COVID-19 exposure

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Screen capture from the video explaining how WA Notify works.

Gov. Jay Inslee, along with the Washington State Department of Health on Monday announced the launch of WA Notify, a notification tool designed to help stop the spread of COVID-19. By adding WA Notify to their smartphones, Washington residents will be alerted if they spent time near another WA Notify user who later tests positive for COVID-19.

WA Notify uses privacy-preserving technology jointly developed by Google and Apple and works without collecting or revealing any location or personal data.

“Secure, private and anonymous exposure notification technology is an important tool for Washington,” Inslee said Monday. “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.”

Data models for three counties in Washington found that COVID-19 infections and deaths could be reduced if even a small percentage of people enabled WA Notify. Studies from Oxford University and Stanford also show that the more people who use exposure notification technology, the more effective it is.

“WA Notify complements the actions Washington residents are already taking, like wearing masks, physical distancing and keeping gatherings small,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “We’re excited to be joining the states already using this safe and secure technology and encourage all Washingtonians to join the effort.”

When voluntarily activated, phones with WA Notify use Bluetooth technology to exchange random codes with the phones of other users they are near. It does this without revealing a user’s identity or location. Users who test positive for COVID-19 can enter a verification code provided by public health into WA Notify, so that other users who have been near them within the last 14 days can be anonymously alerted and take appropriate action.

WA Notify is free and can be enabled in iPhone settings or downloaded as an app from the Google Play Store for Android phones. Users can opt out at any time. Several states…

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