Alaskans can now use their phones to see if they may have been exposed to COVID-19

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 4:40 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska COVID ENX is a system developed jointly by Apple and Google that uses Bluetooth technology on smartphones to let people know when they may have been exposed, giving Alaskans access to technology that can alert them if someone they were in close contact with tested positive for COVID-19.

The University of Alaska Anchorage is coordinating the project here, including a website that describes the COVID ENX system in detail including how to activate it. COVID ENX has been in use for several years across the country, according to UAA Professor Kendrick Mock who helped to roll it out, but was only recently approved by the state for Alaskans to use.

Starting this week, people with iPhones can enable the exposure notifications icon in their settings. Mock explained that the phone will then automatically connect with other phones of people who have opted in. If someone tests positive, they can choose to put that information into the system, which, in turn will send out an alert to phones that have been nearby within the last 14 days.

“It’s possible for that person who tests positive to tap a few buttons on the app and then it will notify other phones that were in close contact and they get a notification that they may have been exposed to COVID-19, and then it’s up to them to act,” he said.

What the phone won’t show is who the person who tested positive was or where the exposure may have happened. Mock said the system uses random codes so that people can’t be identified, and their locations are never tracked.

“It’s voluntary if someone wants to share their diagnosis and it’s all anonymous and so there are all these random codes, and so no one knows who it ever was and no identities are stored in the whole system.”

Mock said the notification system will soon be available for Android users. Starting next week, Alaskans will be able to download an notification app they can find in the Google Play Store.

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