Minnesota officials on Monday launched a smartphone app to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.
It’s not a vaccine, but the app – COVIDaware MN – has been advertised as a tool that, if used by enough people, can help slow the spread of the virus, especially from those who have no symptoms but can pass it on to others.
“I would strongly encourage you if you don’t please, please do it,” Governor Tim Walz said when he asked people to download and use an app that is similar to apps used by many other states and many other countries. “People deserve to be able to get to know them on COVID-19. … This in itself does not inhibit the spread. This is another valuable tool to help with this. “
The app works on iPhone and Android phones and is now available for free download.
The easiest way is to access the Apple App Store if you have an iPhone, or the Google Play Store if you have an Android device.
It does not ask for personal information.
The state has posted a lot of information on COVIDawaremn.com.
Here are some of the basics:
WHAT IS HE DOING?
The app will notify you if you have been in close contact with someone who has given a positive result for COVID-19.
What is a “close relationship”? The application uses CDC guidelines: within 6 feet for 15 minutes.
WHAT IS THE POINT?
If enough people install and use the app, it can slow down the spread of the virus.
If you have been closely associated with a COVID-19 case, you can isolate yourself and test it. So you can’t give it to someone else and you can further intensify this rampant epidemic.
Without the app, you may not know that you were in close contact with each other. Currently, you can only find out if you had such a contact if the infected person told you or if you were contacted by contact trackers.
This is imperfect. People forget who they saw and where they were or don’t want to tell. (The app doesn’t really know that either, but there is a way to do it. Read on.)
In other words, the app does not have contact tracking, but somewhat bypasses traditional contact tracking. If everyone used the app and reported positive test results immediately, the app could be more effective because it was faster and less labor intensive than follow-up with interviews.
HOW DO YOU KNOW THE APP?
COVIDawareMN uses Bluetooth technology. This is the short-range signal that allows your phone to connect wirelessly to the headset or your car.
In this case, it searches for a low-power Bluetooth signal to search for other smartphones with an app installed and enabled. He does this all the time. He knows the distance and the time.
This way you know if you are within 6 feet of another phone for at least 15 minutes.
HOW DO YOU KNOW COVID + EXPOSURE?
The app remembers if your phone has been within 6 feet of another phone for 15 minutes or more and knows what those phones were. This information is kept for 14 days – a possible incubation period for SARS-COV-2 virus.
The app doesn’t actually know the identities of the other phone owners, as it only identifies phones with random numbers that are exchanged every 10 to 20 minutes. Your application generates these numbers and others. In this way, he is anonymous.
If the COVID test is positive, you can tell the application. You don’t have to, but the point is, you do. You can’t joke about the app because it doesn’t accept news of positive results without a verification code that the Minnesota Department of Health starts for all COVID-positive people.
The app will then record all random numbers that the phone has transmitted in the last 14 days and send them to a framework created by Apple and Google. In the pandemic, they had previously teamed up to create a platform for exactly this type of application, with privacy in mind.
Once a day, every phone with an application downloads all the lists of random numbers associated with the new positive case diagnosis.
If one of these numbers matches the numbers in your close contacts log on your phone, you will receive a warning.
What you don’t know (privacy)
Neither the app nor the Apple / Google platform, which is supported by the Association of Public Health Laboratories, knows your name or anything about you.
You do not know your location in the world. Bluetooth only detects Bluetooth signals from nearby people, and the application does not use GPS or other location-based technology.
So if you get a warning about a potential exposure, the app doesn’t know where that exposure actually happened or who was the one who exposed you. You just know you had such potential exposure and you pretty much know when.
For the sake of clarity, if COVID shows a positive result, the Minnesota Department of Health will know everything about you. This is not new. State laws have been allowing public health officials for years to know the identities of people infected with infectious diseases, be it measles or COVID-19.
WHAT ELSE KNOWS
The application also does not know the nature of the relationship with a COVID-positive person. You only know 6 feet or less and 15 minutes or more. So hypothetically, if a COVID patient visited outside the closed window of his room, and if they had both been by the window long enough, this could have triggered the notion of potential exposure, even though there was no real risk.
You don’t know if the exposure was indoors or outdoors, or who was masked or not. And there would be no way for him to find out. But remember: 6 feet for 15 minutes. It’s close enough long enough, not like moving around next to a grocery store aisle.
OLD PHONES DO NOT WORK
IPhones can use the app if you have iOS 13.5 or later. These iPhones support iOS 13.5: 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, Xr, Xs, Xs Max, X, SE (2nd generation), 8, 8 Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, SE (1st generation).
Android users can use it if their Android smartphone supports Bluetooth Low Energy and Android 6 (API 23) or later.
If your phone does not meet these requirements, you will not be able to install and use the application. I’m sorry.