All travelers entering Maui through Hawaii’s ‘Safe Travels’ program will now be required to download a Google-Apple exposure notification system application on their mobile phones, so that they can be immediately notified of having had contact with someone with COVID-19.
The free ‘AlohaSafe Alert’ app uses Bluetooth technology to anonymously communicate with nearby phones that also have the app downloaded, “pinging” each other to record the strength of the Bluetooth signal and duration of interaction between them. When a close contact is sensed, the devices exchange a random, anonymous code, which doesn’t identify user name, location or other personal information at all.
If a user tests positive for COVID-19, the app can instantly and anonymously send out possible exposure alerts to devices whose users met the minimum criteria for exposure—defined as having been within six feet of the infected individual for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more.
The County of Maui Public Health Emergency Rules and Mayor Michael Victorino have just made the previously voluntary use of the app mandatory for visitors. Inbound travelers 18 and older will be required to show proof of the download to screening or law enforcement officials at the airport, Travel + Leisure reported.
That’s in addition to statewide requirements that they arrive with negative NAAT test results (run through one of Hawaii’s Trusted Testing Partner labs) and complete their Safe Travels registration online at least 24 hours prior to their departure if they want to bypass Hawaii’s otherwise mandatory 10-day quarantine.
When the app first launched back on Maui in December 2020, Mayor Michael Victorino remarked: “The AlohaSafe app helps people know that they might have been exposed to the virus and should consider getting tested as soon as possible. This is especially important now as our community awaits the broad distribution of the vaccine against the virus.”
The AlohaSafe Alert was developed in partnership with the Hawaii State Department of Health and has been adopted as the State of Hawaii’s official exposure notification app. It’s compatible with iPhones running iOS 13.7 or newer, and Android phones with Version 6 or above.
Other states, including New York and New Jersey, have also been relying on Bluetooth-based mobile phone apps for contract tracing and exposure notification. These apps, which also utilize the Exposure Notification System platform, which was developed cooperatively by Google and Apple, are used to notify users of possible COVID-19 exposure without collecting any personal information.