In October, Gov. Phil Murphy (along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo in NY), launched COVID-19 exposure notification mobile apps to help trace and contact people exposed to the virus.
The COVID Alert NJ app notifies users of potential COVID-19 exposure, while maintaining user privacy and security. The app is free and available to anyone 18 or older who lives, works, or attends college in New Jersey. It can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
Concerned about privacy? You don’t need to be. Here’s an explanation from the NJ Dept. of Health on how the app works:
“COVID Alert NJ and COVID Alert NY are completely anonymous and do not track or collect any location data or personal data from your phone. The COVID Alert apps do not use GPS location data. The Exposure Notification System uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to detect when another phone with the same app is within six feet. Proximity is measured, but not geographic location. COVID Alert app users must explicitly choose to turn on exposure notifications – and can turn it off at any time.”
Recently, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum urged residents to download the app as soon as possible. She said, “it is safe and secure and anonymous.”
Collum wrote on Facebook:
“If you test positive, a public health rep will contact you (as they already do) and ask if you will ANONYMOUSLY notify ‘close contacts’ by giving you a 6-digit verification code to enter into your app… People who were your close contacts (whether you know them or not) will get a notification without any identifying information on you or your location…”
As an hypothetical, Collum said if she went to the South Orange Open Air holiday market on Thursday evening and then tested positive on Saturday, she would be able to use the app to alert the people who were around her that they were in contact with someone who tested positive. But they would not know who it was or where it happened, they would just know that it was time to self-quarantine and get tested.
“Contact tracing is one of the best ways our health experts are helping stop the spread,” Collum said. “We’ve had 110 positive test cases in South Orange this month, our worst month. This second wave is a beast.”
The app enables us to keep each other safe and enable exposure notifications. But, the app won’t function at its best unless more people use it. There are roughly 7 million adults living in New Jersey — and thus far only around 425,000, or about 6%, have the app. “That is not good enough,” Collum said.