OLYMPIA — More than 200,000 people have already signed up for Washington’s COVID-19 notification phone app, Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday as he implored residents to sign up for it.
And in a news conference, Inslee said that if enough Washingtonians are comfortable signing up for it, the app could save a measurable number of people from getting infected or dying of the new coronavirus.
“This is a pretty sweet deal for folks,” said the governor, who described the app as “free, private, easy to use and effective and can actually save lives.”
Washington Exposure Notifications aims to let people know of possible COVID-19 exposures. The service uses Bluetooth technology developed by Apple and Google to detect proximity to other phones. If someone who has enabled these notifications tests positive, they can anonymously notify other users who have been within 6 feet of them.
The app — which is being released in 29 different languages — works without collecting or revealing any location or personal data, according to the governor’s office.
Also known as WA Notify, it was developed by the University of Washington and the state Department of Health (DOH) to alert people who might have been exposed to COVID-19.
In the news conference, Inslee and Health Secretary John Wiesman cited data modeling that looked at how such an app could be effective in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.
That modeling suggested that if 15% of residents with smartphones in those counties used the app, said Wiesman, infections could decrease by as much as 11% and deaths could decrease by as much as 15%.
The rollout comes as Washington and many other states continue to see bigger increases in COVID-19 cases this autumn. Since many people traveled for Thanksgiving, health officials remain wary that new confirmed cases could spike further in the coming weeks.
Washington state health officials confirmed Monday afternoon an additional 2,319 coronavirus infections and 71 deaths.
The latest update brings the state’s totals to 165,019 cases and 2,774 deaths, meaning that 1.7% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to DOH.
The app’s design allows people to use it voluntarily, Wiesman said. When a contact tracer reaches out to someone infected with COVID-19, they will ask the person if they have the notification app, said Wiesman.
The contact tracer will provide a verification code that the infected person can then enter into the app.
“And then that will allow others who have been in contact with them during the time of concern to be notified that they have been exposed … without any indication of who that was or where they were exposed,” he said.
Some Washington state iPhone users received their first notification early Monday, saying that the system is enabled. The app is available on Android through the Google Play Store. To download, search for “WA Notify.”
To turn on WA Notify on an iPhone:
- Go to Settings
- Scroll down to Exposure Notifications
- Click “Turn On Exposure Notifications”
- Select United States
- Select Washington
If you haven’t received a notification on your iPhone, you may need to check your device’s notification settings and make sure you’re on the latest iPhone firmware. You may also need to check to see whether Government Alerts are enabled on your device.
DOH also lists installation instructions for the Android app, which users must download to opt into the service. The department asks you to search for the “Washington Exposure Notifications app” — but you should instead search for “WA Notify”:
- Go to the Google Play Store
- Download the WA Notify app