Jeramey Jannene

Wisconsin Unveils COVID-19 Contact Tracing App

Smartphone users will get messages next week to opt-in to voluntary system.

By - Dec 17th, 2020 05:01 pm
Gov. Tony Evers 11/24/20 media briefing via YouTube

Gov. Tony Evers 11/24/20 media briefing via YouTube

Wisconsin residents will soon have an easier time learning if they’ve been exposed to someone with a newly confirmed case of COVID-19.

Governor Tony Evers announced the launch of a voluntary smartphone application known as WI Exposure Notification. The app will be available next week.

The anonymous application relies on Bluetooth connectivity with others using the app, not location data.

Wisconsin residents with a smartphone will receive a notification on their device when the application launches on December 23rd.

“We’re excited about this app’s potential to enhance our state’s response to COVID-19,” said Gov. Evers. “The voluntary WI Exposure Notification app is another tool in our toolbox to stop the spread. Because it lets you know faster if you’ve been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive, you can take steps to keep yourself safe and protect those around you. Also, the app doesn’t collect or use device location, so users will remain anonymous.”

If any individual tests positive they will be given a code to enter into their app. That will trigger an anonymous notification on the phone of anyone who has come within Bluetooth connectivity range, estimated to be a maximum of 30 feet, of the positive individual in recent days.

Traditional contact tracing practices broke down this fall as the volume of cases overwhelmed health departments’ abilities to interview individuals who tested positive and notify people who may have been exposed.

“The more people who use the app, the more effective it will be, just like the public health measures we’ve been talking about throughout this pandemic.” said Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Stay home, wash your hands, wear a mask, physically distance, and use the WI Exposure Notification app.”

Bluetooth, a short-range communication standard, is commonly used on smartphones to connect to smart watches, in-vehicle audio systems and headsets.

The app was developed by a partnership between leading smartphone software providers Google and Apple and first rolled out in other areas in May.

“There are a few states that have rolled it out,” said Palm during a media briefing Thursday.

The NFL and NBA are using similar systems, albeit with specialized hardware, to track which individuals come into contact with one another.

Categories: Health, Weekly

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