NEW YORK — New York unleashed another weapon in its arsenal to fight the new coronavirus. This one will reside on your smartphone.
At a news conference Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state had launched its new COVID Alert NY app.
He said the free app uses the phone’s built-in Bluetooth technology to alert the phone’s owner that they have been in close contact with another person who is infected with the virus.
Close contact, according to the app, is defined as being within 6 feet of someone for more than 10 minutes.
Cuomo said the app was really creative and could make a big difference.
Even though the state has about 19 million residents, there are just 15,000 contact tracers, or as Cuomo calls them “disease detectives.”
He said the app could help identify faster those who have been potentially been exposed to the new coronavirus.
“Testing is only as good as your contract tracing,” he said.
New York’s app will work in concert with those in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware — and soon in Connecticut — as a regional alert network to help stop the spread of the virus.
The app works by sensing nearby phones and storing anonymous close contact codes.
If someone who has activated the app tests positive, they will be called by a representative of their local public health department who will ask if that person is willing to share their close contacts stored on their phone. If the person agrees, then those close contacts will receive an exposure alert, along with next steps to stay safe and prevent community spread.
Officials said the alert will never reveal the identify of the person who tested positive for the virus, nor will the app collect location or personal data from your phone.
The big “if” in all of this is, how many people are willing to use the app. The more phone users opting in, the better the notification system will work, officials said.
The app can be dowloaded for free from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.
For more information on the app and how it is used, go to the state health department’s website.
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This article originally appeared on the Yorktown-Somers Patch