Gov. Tim Walz unveiled the COVIDaware MN app on Monday afternoon with the hope that it may slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
“As we see a dangerous surge in cases across the state, we need to use every tool possible to cut off the spread of the virus,” said Walz. “COVIDaware MN gives our state a powerful and anonymous new tool to alert others we’ve had close contact with – even people we don’t know – and slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The free app, available on Android and iOS, will allow users who test positive for COVID-19 to anonymously alert others who have the app if they’ve been within 6 feet of each other for 15 minutes or more in the past 14 days. Everything about the app is anonymous and voluntary: People can choose to download the app and can choose whether to enter their positive test result to alert others.
“The COVIDaware MN app will supplement Minnesota’s contact tracing efforts, which typically rely on a person to remember who they may have been in contact with or places they have visited while they were sick. With COVIDaware MN, Minnesotans can learn of an exposure to COVID-19 even when the exposure involves people they don’t know,” said Jan Malcolm, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health.
The rollout of exposure notification software was delayed by privacy concerns. The COVIDaware MN app does not record any user data. It identifies users with a randomly generated and rotating number, and does not track location. Instead, phones with the app just exchange ID numbers using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology.
Other states have similar apps intended for notifying individuals of their potential exposure to COVID-19, including Alabama, California, Colorado, Delaware, Virginia, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Wyoming, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
The app can be found on Google Play or the Apple App Store with more information available on their website, covidawaremn.com.
As of Monday, Nov. 23, Minnesota has seen more than 3,200 deaths due to COVID-19 with 15 in Otter Tail County. The release of the app was announced as part of Walz’s “Dial Back,” Minnesota campaign to help slow the spread of coronavirus throughout the state, which is seeing a second wave of percent-positive tests, indicating high transmission and widespread infection.
If you receive a notification that you have been exposed to the virus, the Minnesota Department of Health recommends that you quarantine for 14 days and remain in quarantine regardless of a negative test result. The app will give you a date range for when the exposure likely happened and, if you don’t have any symptoms, it’s best to get tested at least five days after the last exposure. If you have symptoms, get tested right away.