LANSING — In an attempt to slow the increasing spread of COVID-19, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) have rolled out a COVID exposure app.
The MI COVID Alert app is an anonymous, free and voluntary app originally piloted on Michigan State University’s campus last month.
The app lets users know whether they may have recently been exposed to COVID-19 by allowing users to confidentially submit a positive test result into the app and alert others in recent proximity that may have also been exposed.
With COVID cases skyrocketing over the last few weeks, MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said this is a safe step to utilize.
Using MI COVID Alert on your cell phone is a simple, safe step that everyone can take to protect themselves and their loved ones. It’s free, it’s easy and it protects your privacy.
“COVID cases and deaths are now rising fast,” he said. “Using MI COVID Alert on your cell phone is a simple, safe step that everyone can take to protect themselves and their loved ones. It’s free, it’s easy and it protects your privacy.”
In the initial weeks of the pilot in Ingham County and the MSU campus, 46,704 people downloaded the app, which is approximately 23 percent of Ingham County residents between the ages of 18 and 64.
MSU Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Dr. Norman J. Beauchamp Jr. said the app can help prevent the spread.
“This app has the potential to provide the kind of early exposure notification that is critical to preventing the spread of the virus,” he said. “In addition to wearing a mask, social distancing and getting tested, downloading the app is one of the most important steps we can take to help keep our communities safe.”
When a person tests positive for the virus, they are given a randomly generated PIN from their local health department or the state of Michigan case investigators that allows the patient to share their results anonymously on the app.
The app uses randomly generated phone codes and low energy Bluetooth technology as opposed to GPS location as a means of protecting privacy while looking back in time to determine close contact with other phones utilizing the app.
If someone was in close contact with a positive patient, they will receive a push notification once the positive result is entered. This notification means that the app used was possibly within six feet for at least 15 minutes of someone that tested positive.
The app is available for both Apple and Android users.
The MDHHS said in a press release that the app is meant to work in conjunction with social distancing and wearing a mask.
People who are exposed to COVID-19 should get tested and consider quarantining, including watching for symptoms for 14 days from the date of possible exposure. Individuals in need of testing may visit the COVID-19 website to find a testing location near them. They may also contact the Michigan COVID-19 hotline by calling 888-535-6136 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or dialing 2-1-1 on their mobile phone to locate and schedule an appointment at a nearby, off-campus testing location.