NCDHHS launches new app to alert people of recent exposure to COVID-19

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) – A new exposure notification app called, “SlowCOVIDNC,” has just been launched by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) to help slow the spread of the virus.

The SlowCOVID-19NC app leverages Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification System (ENS) to alert users in North Carolina that have the app if they have been in contact with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19.

The app, which is free to download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, does not collect, store or share personal information or location data and allows the users to remain anonymous.

According to the NCDHHS website, this is how the app works:

  1. Download the free SlowCOVIDNC Exposure Notification app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and enable Bluetooth and Exposure Notifications. Bluetooth must be on for the app to work.
  2. After opting-in to receive notifications, the app will generate an anonymous token for the device. A token is a string of random letters which changes every 10-20 minutes and is never linked to identity or location. This protects app user privacy and security.
  3. Through Bluetooth, phones with the SlowCOVIDNC app work in the background (minimizing battery) to exchange these anonymous tokens every few minutes. Phones record how long they are near each other and the Bluetooth signal strength of their exchanges in order to estimate distance.
  4. If an app user tests positive for COVID-19, the individual may obtain a unique PIN to submit in the app. This voluntary and anonymous reporting notifies others who have downloaded the app that they may have been in close contact with someone in the last 14 days who has tested positive.
  5. PINs will be provided to app users who receive a positive COVID-19 test result by contacting the Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) call center, through a web-based portal, or by contacting their Local Health Department.
  6. SlowCOVIDNC periodically downloads tokens from the server from the devices of users who have anonymously reported a positive test. Phones then use records of the signal strength and duration of exposures with those tokens to calculate risk and determine if an app user has met a threshold to receive an Exposure Notification.

SlowCOVIDNC is voluntary and is designed to enhance the state’s existing contact tracing efforts that were put in place in April to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Anyone who might have been infected by a person who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 is tracked down through contact tracing so those contacts can quarantine themselves and prevent further spread.

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