New app could help track Delaware COVID-19 cases

The new COVID Alert DE app could alert users that someone they’ve been in close contact with has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Nurses stand at a COVID testing area

Nurses with ChristianaCare wait for the next person to be tested for coronavirus during a free drive-through area at the Riverfront complex in downtown Wilmington, Delaware on Friday, March 13, 2020. (Butch Comegys for WHYY)

While the state has been working to increase its contact tracing ability by tracking down anyone who may have spent time with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, a new app could help notify strangers that someone they were close to recently has the virus.

“Typical contact tracing relies on an individual remembering the names of people they have been in contact with – and for how long,” said Molly Magarik, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. “Using the COVID Alert DE app will help to speed up the process of notifying close contacts and identifying close contacts.”

The app uses Bluetooth technology to communicate with other phones that also have the app installed. The phones communicate over Bluetooth when in close proximity using frequently changing codes to identify the users. Close proximity is considered being within six feet of someone for 15 minutes or more.

“The COVID Alert DE app will protect your privacy by not collecting or sharing any personal information such as name, address, or age that can identify you,” Magarik said. “We are not using GPS, navigation, geocoding or any other location services as part of this app.”

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She said the app cannot be used to track users and doesn’t know if you’re supposed to be in quarantine.

The state expects young people to be more willing to download the app and are working with the University of Delaware and Delaware State University to promote it.

Gov. John Carney urged all Delawareans to download the app.

“This is a great tool, a strong development today that we’re announcing that will enable us to improve the contact tracing effort that’s underway with live bodies and to alert people that they might be at some risk,” he said.

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In addition to warning about contact with someone who tests positive, the app also allows users to log symptoms they may be having and get more detailed information on the COVID-19 pandemic in Delaware.

Delaware currently has 19,137 cases of the coronavirus as of September 15, an increase of 88 cases from the day before. There have been 618 deaths, which has held steady since Friday.

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