PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia’s COVIDWISE app, with notifies users of potential coronavirus exposure, is now part of a network that includes similar systems in 15 other states and the District of Columbia.
The Virginia Department of Health announced the news on Friday, saying joining the Association of Public Health Laboratories’ (APHL) National Key Server will help increase the apps’ effectiveness across state lines.
“The integration with APHL’s National Key Server is important in our fight against COVID-19 here in Virginia and across the nation,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “Interoperability with Exposure Notifications apps from other jurisdictions enables COVIDWISE users to learn of possible exposures from app users that reside in other states or D.C. This is especially important considering added travel during the holiday season.”
The other 15 states include Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wyoming. Three other states, California, Hawaii and Oregon, are also in the pilot stages for apps with a limited number on the national server.
The app, which launched in August and is available through Apple and Google Play, doesn’t track users or use their personal information, but instead uses bluetooth technology and runs in the background of a phone. Users anonymously report a positive test and the app will notify anyone who was close to that person (6 feet or closer) for 15 minutes or more.
Virginia was the first state to debut the technology, which was developed with SpringML for about $229,000.
A VDH spokesperson said 889,918 people had downloaded the app as of Dec. 10, an estimated 21% of Virginians ages 18-65 with a smartphone. It’s one of the two most downloaded exposure apps in the U.S.
So far the app has sent out 10,643 likely exposure notifications (person who tests positive was within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes), with a 5-day average of 82 notifications per day.
VDH says an additional 20,417 COVIDWISE user devices matched a positive report but did not meet the 6 feet for 15 minutes threshold for receiving a notification.
Virginia continues to record numbers of new cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations, reporting about 4,000 new cases daily. Virginia’s still on the lower end of the spectrum for cases per capita however, with about 45 cases per 100,000 residents.
To learn more about COVIDWISE and download the app, visit www.covidwise.org.