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The new app will go through a trial next week before being launched in September. Photo: Depositphotos
The new app will go through a trial next week before being launched in September. Photo: Depositphotos

Pennsylvania to launch COVID-19 contact tracing app in September

COVID Alert PA will be voluntary, but Health Secretary Rachel Levine said it will be helpful in efforts to contain future outbreaks of the virus.

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In the effort to track the spread of coronavirus in Pennsylvania, government leaders have gone all the way to Ireland to find a solution.

There, the Irish government implemented Covid Tracker Ireland, a phone app that alerts its users if they have been around someone with coronavirus.

It’s the creation of Ireland-based software company, Nearform, and has been downloaded by approximately one quarter of the country’s population.

Pennsylvania’s version will be called COVID Alert PA and is the result of a $1.9 million contract between the state and Nearform.

The app is based on Google and Apple’s smartphone technology and utilizes Bluetooth technology to tell when a user has spent time near another with COVID-19.

As to when it alerts a user, the app follows CDC guidelines of being within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes.

To keep users’ data private, it will be encrypted and anonymous identifier beacons that frequently change. 

Pennsylvania’s app will also have up-to-date statistics on coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths by county.

It will also launch alongside an app developed by Delaware, as both will be some of the first U.S. states to leverage technology against the virus’ spread.

Virginia led the charge earlier this month and both North Dakota and Wyoming have also launched similar apps.

While not mandatory, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine urged all to download the app when it launches because of how it will help contact tracers in the state.

“The more people who have the app, the more effective it will be in terms of this notification process,” said Levine in a press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 21.

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