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New smartphone app tracks users' exposure to COVID-19

Posted at 8:18 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 23:18:01-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — A new smartphone app from the Arizona Department of Health Services is hoping to expand contact tracing efforts.

The app is called "COVID Watch." Once downloaded and installed, the app notes nearby Bluetooth signals of other mobile devices with the app installed, and notes each one with an anonymous, randomized number.

Users can then choose to anonymously share that they've tested positive for the virus. The app then notifies other users who have been in close contact with that person that they may have been exposed, without revealing who it was.

App creators at the University of Arizona say the software never collects personal information or location data. Now, app UArizona professor Joanna Masel -- who helped design the app -- says their goal is getting as many people as possible to use it.

"Our rollout strategy is very much focused on that, too -- on spreading it via social media, on getting groups of contacts to have high adoption within clusters, and from there to, you know, sort of go viral," she said.