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Smartphone App Warns Of Contact With COVID Carriers

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) - State officials have unveiled a COVID -19 Alert phone app that will be able to notify someone if they have been in contact with a person who tested positive for the virus.

The free app, downloadable to smart phones, will alert the user if they came within six feet of someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, and if they were in proximity of that person for more than 10 minutes. Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state received funding from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic foundation, and worked with Apple and google to develop the technology.

“It’s really creative and smart and I think it can make a big difference,” Cuomo said.

When someone tests positive for COVID, they are contacted by the state health department, which asks permission to give them a password. The phone is then registered, anonymously. Using Bluetooth technology, other smart phones with the app can sense when it comes into contact with that person’s phone. Cuomo’s Chief of Staff Melissa DeRosa says efforts have been made to protect privacy.

“The Covid- Alert New York does not track your location, your movement or use GPS,” said DeRosa. “It does not collect or store any personal information. It is completely anonymous.”

State officials plan a social media campaign to get New Yorkers to download and use the app.

The announcement comes on a day when the rate of transmission of the virus rose to 6.5% in 20 hotspots, in New York City and the lower Hudson Valley.

“These 20 hotspot ZIP codes require full attention, and effectiveness, and action. As I've said before, a cluster today can become community spread tomorrow,” Cuomo said. “ These ZIP codes are not hermetically sealed, right? People from these ZIP codes go to the surrounding community. They shop in the surrounding communities, they take buses, et cetera. And that's how you have community spread.”

Cuomo once again called on local governments to enforce rules requiring masks and social distancing, and banning large gatherings.

The rate of the virus in the rest of the state averaged just below 1% on Wednesday.