Summit County to use new app that can notify you if you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus
KEYSTONE — Colorado soon will become one of the first states to use an app that will notify people if they have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
At a news conference Tuesday, Sept. 8, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced a partnership among the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Google and Apple to make the Exposure Notification Express app available to the public.
The app will be free and available to people in Colorado at the end of September. Android users will have to download the app, while iPhone users will have it automatically installed in their next phone update. Those users still will need to opt in to use the app, Sarah Tuneberg, head of the state’s coronavirus innovation response team, said at the conference.
In simple terms, the app helps with the process of contact tracing. Everyone who has opted in will have the app running in the background. While people are going about their day, the app will be using Bluetooth to exchange “tokens,” which are stored on a department server, Tuneberg said.
When a person who uses the app tests positive for the virus, the public health department will give them a “key,” which activates all of the tokens. By activating the tokens, everyone who was within 6 feet of the infected person will be notified that they might have been exposed.
“This is where Colorado gets to really make this specific for us,” Tuneberg said. “We will give very specific instructions in that push notification about where individuals can get instructions about next steps, including testing, isolation and quarantine.”
The tokens are anonymous and people won’t know who exposed them, Tuneberg said.
At a Summit County Board of Health meeting Tuesday, Summit County leaders discussed how they will use the app.
“This is really a great avenue toward having the ability to host larger events because then we have a quick, fast, easy way to contact people who may have been exposed,” Public Health Director Amy Wineland said at the meeting.
Polis said the app will allow people to get back to normalcy. At the news conference, he announced that the state will allow fans to attend the Broncos game Sept. 27 in person. An app like this will make large events like Broncos games easier to host, he said.
“We wouldn’t even be in this position of talking about being able to go to a Broncos game if we hadn’t been successful in Colorado — more successful than many other states — in wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings,” he said.
Wineland said there’s still a lot that local public health departments don’t know about the app. For example, the county doesn’t know whether the process for identifying positive cases will remain the same or how the app will work with out-of-state visitors.
Despite the unknowns, it will undoubtedly be useful for the county’s contact tracing efforts, she said.
The biggest concern about the app surrounds the sharing of private data. Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she’s concerned people won’t use the app because of worries about privacy.
“I really hope that a lot of people will choose to use it, but I think it will take some convincing,” Lawrence said.
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