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Testing a New COVID-19 App

Laura displays Covidwise, a new exposure notification app developed by the Virginia Department of Health. 

In August, the Virginia Department of Health released a free COVID-19 exposure notification app called Covidwise. It is the first app in the United States that uses technology designed by Apple and Google. 

The goal of the app is to make contact tracing, a technique used to prevent the spread of COVID-19, more effective. Usually, contact tracing is done by having people recently in contact with an infected person self-quarantine to prevent the virus from spreading. However, this can be difficult to enforce, since infected individuals may not remember everyone they’ve been in close contact with. 

This is where exposure notification apps like Covidwise can help. “Covidwise provides an easy way to receive notifications of possible exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19,” said Virginia Department of Health spokesperson Julie Grimes.

Covidwise uses Bluetooth technology to check if an app user has recently been in contact with another user who tests positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The app generates anonymous tokens and exchanges tokens in the phones of individuals who have been in contact with each other. If one of the exchanged tokens is from a user who later tests positive, Covidwise will send a notification, along with safety instructions.

Since COVID-19 symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear, it’s important to know about potential exposure as soon as possible. “By knowing of a possible exposure, you can self-quarantine, seek timely medical attention, and reduce potential exposure risk to yourself, your family, and your community,” Grimes said.



One of the biggest concerns about Covidwise and other exposure notifications is whether they protect users’ privacy. When asked about this, Grimes replied, “Yes, absolutely. No location data or personal information is ever collected, stored, tracked, or transmitted to the Virginia Department of Health.”

However, some Virginians, including teenagers, have a different view. “I do think there could be some invasion of privacy,” said my classmate, Zani Xu, 14. “But the app could help save lives, which is the most important thing.”


Photo courtesy of the author