Washington state has introduced a new feature on its COVID-19 exposure notification app allowing those who test positive with an at-home test to anonymously let others know of a potential exposure, the state Department of Health confirmed Wednesday.

The DOH launched the app, WA Notify, in November 2020 to alert users of coronavirus exposures using Bluetooth technology to detect proximity to other phones. In theory, if someone who has enabled these notifications tests positive, they can anonymously notify other users who have been within 6 feet of them.

Omicron, holidays send demand for COVID tests soaring across Washington state

Now, the app will also take at-home test results into consideration — a significant step as holiday gatherings and the recent spread of the omicron variant push a spike in demand for rapid at-home tests.

According to company spokespeople, Bartell Drugs, Walgreens and CVS are all seeing high demand for the testing kits, with Walgreens even implementing a four-item purchase limit on at-home tests.

“Slowing the spread of COVID-19 is dependent upon early notification to close contacts of everyone who tests positive for the virus,” Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett, the state’s chief science officer, said in a Wednesday statement. “By including the option to request verification codes in WA Notify for positive at-home tests, more individuals can be notified earlier so they can take the steps to protect themselves and others.”

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Verification codes can be requested by following instructions within the WA Notify app, the state said. For iPhone users, exposure notifications can be found with the phone’s settings function. Android users should be able to open the app, select a test result to share and request a code.

Both apps will ask for the user’s phone number and positive test date before a notification code is sent to them. No personal or location information will be shared, the state said.

Once a user enters the verification code, other WA Notify users who have been near them within the last 14 days can be anonymously alerted.

The state then instructs users to contact the DOH COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-525-0127 and press # to report the positive result from an over-the-counter test.

Since the DOH launched the app, more than 2.75 million people have enabled the service on their phones — accounting for more than 45% of smartphone users in the state, the agency reported.

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