COVID-19 Contact Tracking App Launches in Wisconsin; Expert calls for download before the holidays

MADISON, Wis. – A COVID-19 contact tracking app was launched Wednesday in Wisconsin for iPhone and Android phones. The Opt-in WI Exposure Notification app allows users to enter their test results and be notified if they have been in close contact with someone else who tested positive.

Messages started rolling out to Wisconsinites on Wednesday, where users were created that work on Bluetooth technology to anonymously share signals between other nearby smartphones using the app. Technology does not use, collect or store GPS data or personal information from a user’s phone.

“This app is completely voluntary, but the more people who use it, the more effective it will be,” said Gov. Evers in a press release. “Now that we have a vaccine, there are lights at the end of the tunnel, folks, but we are not ready yet – we still need everyone to do their part to help fight this virus.”

When a person tests positive for COVID-19, they get a code that they can enter in the app. The code is then used to anonymously send an alert to users who have shared a Bluetooth signal with the person who tested positive for an extended period of time that fits within close contact standards.

“It may sound scary or too high for an order for everyone in Wisconsin to sign up,” said Ajay Sethi, UW-Madison associate professor of public health science. “It does not have to be adopted by everyone; it really needs to be adopted one person at a time – and really within social networks. ”

Sethi recommends holding conversations with loved ones and members of social networks during the holiday season to make sure everyone has signed up, to enable easier contact tracking if someone within a social network tests positive. It is also a fail-safe when it comes to remembering close contacts.

“If a lot of people do that, then a lot of networks overlap,” he explained.

Bluetooth must be enabled for the app to work properly. The app must also be installed or activated before a positive test for it to work.

“The way to get people to adopt this is to have these conversations with friends and family,” Sethi said. “We need it to go viral that way, just like the virus does.”

How do I download?

On Android phones, you can download the app through the Google Play Store. For iPhones, the app can be created via the phone’s exposure notification settings, where system notifications start pushing out on Wednesday. If you allow notifications for the app, you can receive notifications when someone you have been in close contact with enters a positive test result.

Is it private?

The app does not store location data or personal information and deletes the random IDs generated via Bluetooth for sharing with other phones every fortnight. Many gaming and social media apps collect, store, and even sell more data than Exposure Notifications technology.

Click here for an FAQ from Apple / Google on how baseline exposure technology works.