Walz announces app to help slow spread of COVID-19

Associated Press
Updated: November 23, 2020 06:10 PM
Created: November 23, 2020 09:53 AM

Governor Tim Walz announced the availability of a new COVID-19 exposure notification mobile application, COVIDaware MN, which could slow the spread of COVID-19 by helping Minnesotans protect themselves and their loved ones.

The voluntary, anonymous application will alert a user if another user with whom they have had close contact during the virus’ infectious period tests positive for COVID-19.  Again, it is voluntary.

When Minnesotans download the app and allow notifications, COVIDaware MN generates a random, privacy-protecting key for a user's phone.

The app does not track individuals' locations or their positions relative to one another. It never accesses personal information or share your identity.

Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, the user's phone and the phones of other users they are near anonymously exchange these privacy-protected keys. If a person receives a positive test, the Department of Health will provide a unique code the person may enter into the app, if they choose. 

If they enter the code, users with whom they've been within six feet for 15 or more minutes over a 24 hour period in the past 14 days will receive a notification of an exposure. It does not say who it was, or where it happened. Just a broad time frame, like three days.

COVIDaware MN will exchange random keys with anyone who downloads COVIDaware MN or similar applications developed by other states that use the same technology framework. 

Minnesota currently ranks sixth in the country for new COVID-19 cases per capita. One in every 120 people in Minnesota tested positive in the past week.

State health officials reported more than 7,200 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, and an additional 40 deaths.

Walz announced the new technology alongside Minnesota IT Services Commissioner Tarek Tomes and Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann. 

Walz plans on speaking at 12:30 p.m. and WDIO will be streaming the the announcement.

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