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New phone system alerts when you've potentially been exposed to COVID-19

This is why we will all get a nationwide cellphone alert on Wednesday
Posted at 10:24 AM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 11:53:17-05

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland's Department of Health on Tuesday launched a mobile system that can notify residents if they've potentially been exposed to COVID-19.

It's called MD COVID Alert and it operates through Bluetooth Low Energy technology, which will be available to iPhone or Android users.

If you have that type of phone, expect to receive a push notification with an invite to the alerts.

iPhone users can choose to opt in by enabling exposure notifications in their phone’s settings and selecting Maryland as their region.

For Android, you can download the app from the Google Play Store.

So how does it work?

A random ID number gets assigned to participating phones and is later exchanged between others using the app. The numbers usually change every 10 to 20 minutes.

But don't worry, the number does not identify you or your location.

“Privacy is important. MD COVID Alert does not collect, transmit, or store personal information of users, and the system is completely anonymous,” said Dr. Katherine Feldman, MDH Contact Tracing Unit Director. “We’re asking Marylanders to add their smartphones to the fight against COVID-19 by using MD COVID Alert.”

Each day your phone would download a list of random IDs associated with verified positive COVID-19 cases, checking them against random IDs users have encountered two days prior to a positive test.

If there is a match, the system notifies users of the date of exposure and nothing else.

Users receiving an alert should get tested and quarantine, while monitoring themselves for symptoms.

Some users could receive a call from a contact tracer if their information is shared by someone who contracted the virus.

The app is completely free and voluntary. Notifications can be disabled at any time.