A new mobile app for residents of New Jersey and New York will tell the user if they’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, in the latest bid to prevent outbreaks as public health officials worry about a fall or winter-induced second wave of the virus.
Known as “COVID Alert NJ” and “COVID Alert NY,” the app will alert someone if they’ve been within 6 feet of a person who tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 10 minutes. The user will be urged to get a COVID-19 test and self-quarantine for 14 days, which is the typical incubation period before symptoms emerge in a person with the virus.
The app is available to anyone over the age of 18, who lives, works or attends college in either state, according to Gov. Phil Murphy’s office.
New Jersey and New York adopted the app as part of a regional approach with Delaware and Pennsylvania. Connecticut has plans to launch a similar app using the same technology, according to the governor’s office, and in all cases, the apps will be able to “talk” with each other.
“Over the course of our public health emergency, we’ve called for a shared sense of personal responsibility to support our contact tracing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Murphy said in a Thursday afternoon statement.
The app is available on the Google Play and Apple App stores, and uses so-called “exposure notification” technology to “detect when another phone with the same app is within 6 feet.”
Its success in helping prevent future outbreaks is dependent on more users in turn having the app, Murphy said.
State officials assured that users’ personally identifiable information is kept private and that location data will not be collected.
“COVID Alert NJ helps expand our contact tracing efforts, along with our neighboring states, in battling the pandemic, particularly among young adults, and also protects privacy and data,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Thursday.
While a widely feared second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks has thus far been avoided, state health officials continue to worry the risks could increase during the colder fall and winter months, leading to a potential concurrence with the flu season.
Recently, the state is seeing dramatic upticks in the number of daily positive COVID-19 cases, with the vast majority of them coming out of Lakewood in Ocean County. Persichilli said on Wednesday that the positivity rate among COVID-19 tests there was 27 percent, compared to a statewide average of roughly 3 percent.
Murphy assured on Wednesday night that despite these rebounds, the widespread shutdowns he ordered in March and April to halt the spread of the virus initially are highly unlikely to return.