Washington launches statewide COVID-19 exposure notification tool

Nov 30, 2020, 10:10 AM
WA Notify, exposure notification...
WA Notify, a COVID-19 exposure notification tool launches in Washington state. (Photo courtesy of WA Governor's Office/Medium)
(Photo courtesy of WA Governor's Office/Medium)

Governor Jay Inslee announced a new, statewide COVID-19 exposure notification tool Monday that aims to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The tool, called WA Notify, can be added to smartphones, and will then alert Washington residents if they have spent time near another WA Notify user who later tests positive for COVID-19.

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Jointly developed by Google and Apple, the release from the governor’s office says WA Notify uses privacy-preserving technology 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.”

John Wiesman, the state Secretary of Health, says WA Notify complements other prevention methods, like wearing masks, physical distancing, and limited gatherings. Additionally, he says other states are already using this “safe and secure technology,” including Virginia, New York, and Colorado. Ireland, Canada, and Germany are also successfully using this technology.

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WA Notify is completely voluntary and uses Bluetooth technology to exchange random codes with the phones of other users nearby. It does this without revealing a user’s identity or location.

As it’s explained in the release, “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 are able to opt out at any time.

The University of Washington tested WA Notify with students to help inform a statewide rollout.

Gov. Inslee will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. on Monday to talk about WA Notify, joined by Wiesman and UW President Ana Mari Cauce.

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Washington launches statewide COVID-19 exposure notification tool