Apple and Google are making it easier for states to let people know if they have been exposed to Covid-19 with an “Exposure Notifications Express” system. The first states that will adopt this new contact tracing software, which allows public health authorities to notify residents if they have been near someone who tested positive, include DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
The express system is an extension of the software that Apple and Google released in April, which initially required states to set up their own contact tracing apps. Through Bluetooth technology, the software monitors any possible instances where you might have been exposed without sharing location data or the user’s identity. In August, Virginia became the first state to develop an app with that technology, called COVIDWISE. (If you’ve already downloaded the app, don’t worry: The system will be compatible with the apps that already use the exposure notifications software, too.) Yet other states were not as readily able to jump into app development, which limited public health authorities’ ability to reach people through their phones. Now with expanded access, states can opt in to use the technology and residents will be able to access the exposure notifications by enabling them directly through their iPhone settings (with an iOS 13.7 update).
The contact tracing tech will also help connect app users across the region: If someone in Virginia is exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid-19 in Maryland, public health authorities will be able to notify the Virginia resident. At the moment, DC and Maryland are still using contact tracers to monitor the virus spread on the phone or in person. The iPhone update was released to all users on September 1, though the states’ authorities must enable the exposure notifications system before residents can start using it.