Roughly a month after its launch date, a New York state app that alerts people about possible Covid-19 exposure was downloaded about 690,000 times, according to Laura Montross, a spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. Though impressive, the number will need to keep growing to boost its effectiveness.

Covid Alert NY uses Bluetooth technology to detect when people have been within six feet of one another for longer than 10 minutes – assuming they each have downloaded the app. If someone later reports on the app that he or she tested positive, all the people who could have been near them for 10 minutes or more are notified. The app does not use any location data, which Cuomo said will prevent the collection of personal user information.

“The more who use the app, the better it will work,” explained Troy Tassier, a Fordham University professor who studies economic epidemiology. “But even a small percentage of users can be helpful because it lowers at least some amount of manual contact tracing.”

A joint study by Oxford University and Google estimated that exposure notifications could reduce infections by 15% in a region if an app is downloaded by at least 15% of the population and is paired with manual contact tracing. Currently, about 3% of New York’s 19.5 million residents are using the app, which links up with those of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware to alert people if they were exposed by someone out of state. Cuomo placed a download link on the state’s Covid-19 website, which can be found by clicking here.

A separate effort led by the Covid-19 Technology Task Force is holding virtual seminars and one-on-one sessions to educate employers about the app – who could perhaps encourage employees to download it as a tool for reopening a workplace.

Source: Crain’s New York Business

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