Delaware launches app that alerts you if you were exposed to COVID-19

WILMINGTON, Del. (KYW Newsradio) — A new tool that the governor calls a “significant breakthrough” is now being used across Delaware to develop contact tracing efforts in the fight against COVID-19.

“It’s a free, anonymous exposure notification mobile app that’s called COVID Alert DE,” said Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Molly Magarik.

So how does it work? For those who tested positive for the coronavirus, and the Delaware Division of Public Health confirmed the diagnosis, it will send you a six-digit code to enter in the app, if you chose to use it.

Anybody 18 and older can download it and participate.

“If the COVID positive user decides to enter the code into their phone,” added Magarik, “it triggers their phone to upload special keys. And those anonymous keys are checked against the list of random keys that they have encountered on other users’ phones over the last few days.”

A user will get a notification if they’ve been exposed to a positive user. At that point, it’s up to the user to act. Health officials recommend they self-quarantine and get tested.

Magarik emphasized that the app is anonymous.

“No location data is used or collected by the COVID Alert DE app,” she said. “The exposure notification system works through Bluetooth low-energy technology, so phones that download the app recognize the keys on other phones when the phones are in close proximity to each other. It’s the closeness of the phones, not the location, that is detected.”

She reassured the app doesn’t share personal information, and it can’t track you. It also doesn’t know the specifics of the exposure, if an alert was sent to a user. It’s simply designed to speed up the contact tracing process.

Another feature allows users to log their symptoms.

“This app is an important tool to help Delawareans understand the risks of COVID-19 and to help fight community spread of this virus,” said Gov. John Carney. “Knowing you’ve had a potential exposure and taking the basic precautions is the best way to protect your most vulnerable family members, friends and neighbors who are at risk of serious illness. I would encourage all Delawareans to download this app and help in our fight against COVID-19.”

A handful of other states use the same app. If someone from Delaware is in one of those states, the app will work across state lines.