Cuomo Debuts New Contact Tracing, COVID Alert App as New York Battles Clusters

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With infection rates rising in nearly two dozen ZIP codes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has launched yet another tool in New York state's ongoing battle against coronavirus.

It's a free contracting tracing app called COVID Alert NY that notifies users if they recently spent more than 10 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tests positive. A similar version came online in New Jersey the same day and Cuomo said one will soon roll out in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware soon; it'll support people just traveling through those states as well as the people who live in them.

"It's using tech on a level it's never been used before," the governor said.

COVID Alert NY is a voluntary, anonymous, exposure-notification smartphone app that can rapidly inform people of potential risk, better enabling them to quarantine early and reduce potential exposure to family, friends, co-workers and others.

How does it work? Opt-in to receive alerts if you've had a potential exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Your phone exchanges a secure random code with the other phone to record that they were near.

Your location will never be tracked, the app uses bluetooth technology to sense when another person with the same app comes within 6 feet. Your phone exchanges a secure code with the other phone to record that they were near.

You have to be 18 or older to use it, and Cuomo says the more New Yorkers who do, the more effective it will be. The app also features COVID data on all New York counties as well as the latest positivity rates and other details available on the state's regularly updated dashboards.

Still, there are some who question the tech, and say it raises privacy concerns. Fordham University Professor Olivier Sylvain points out that it may also be overprotective.

"These technologies, bluetooth travels through walls — as I understand it, COVID does not. The bluetooth will pick that up and still report out that you've been within six feet of who has it, that's an example of overprotective," Sylvain said.

Learn more about COVID Alert NY from the state here. Find it in the Apple store here or on Google Play here.

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here


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