The District has launched a new smartphone app to help conduct contact tracing in the spread of the new coronavirus.
The new app that will be available as of Tuesday, October 20, is designed to send DC residents’ phones notifications about their possible exposure to COVID-19.
Android and iPhone users will start receiving push notifications on their devices, asking them to opt into using DC COVID Alert Notice (DC CAN) via their settings (if they are using an iPhone or an iOS device) or downloading the app (if are an Android user.)
Developed by DC Health, Apple and Google, the app operates with the help of Bluetooth signals. When users opt in, their smartphones will be sending out “beacons” to other phones in close proximity, using a randomly generated ID that is renewed every 10-20 minutes.
Emphasizing that joining the system is voluntary and privacy will be a top concern, DC Health director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt explained at a news conference Monday that each phone will securely store the beacons it receives.
“You’ll always be in control of your information, and the D.C. Contract Trace Force will be there to guide you through the process,” Nesbitt said.
The exposure notifications system will download a list of keys belonging to people who have tested positive for the disease once a day and reported their test result through DC CAN.
Each device will check those keys against the keys it previously downloaded, and notify the user if it finds a match, letting them know they have been in contact with a person who was diagnosed with COVID-19, without disclosing the identity of any patient.
In case of an exposure, the user will be informed by DC Health about what steps to follow.
Once you sign up for the app, make sure you select Washington, DC as your region, and report it to the app if you test positive for COVID-19 at any point so that it can inform everyone who have interacted with you in the previous 14 days.
“It only works, it’s only useful if it’s widespread participation, so download the app; tell your neighbors; tell your friends to opt in,” Nesbitt noted.