COVIDWISE: How to use Virginia’s new contact-tracing app

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/WFXR) — Virginia has now rolled out an innovative phone app that helps users know if they’ve come in close contact with someone with the coronavirus.

Once someone downloads COVIDWISE, they’re able to quickly notify others or be notified when someone else with the app tests positive for the coronavirus.

With other countries finding success with similar tech, Virginia is taking a bet on a rapid way to trace the spread of the virus.

“I downloaded the app because I was convinced that it would be the responsible thing to do,” Andrew Crider told WFXR’s sister station.

Gov. Ralph Northam says Virginia is the first state to use the Bluetooth-based contact tracing app without using location services on cell phones. 

It’s a feature Kariah Guilds supports.

“I think the fact that it uses Bluetooth like your folks be more willing to use the app,” Guilds said.

So, how does it work? Download COVIDWISE from the Apple or Android App Store—it’s free. Once the app is live, the first tab shows past exposures. 

The second tab allows the user to anonymously notify others.

But what happens if you do test positive for COVID-19? Virginians can choose to share their results with other Apple users. To do so, VDH would give Virginians a specific six-digit pin. Why? That’s so they don’t ultimately collect false reports of positive results.

“It will then ping those phones,” explains State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver.

Bluetooth tech helps recognize when another user was nearby for at least 15 minutes, “…and all it will tell them is that sometime in the last 14 days, you may have been exposed to COVID-19,” Oliver added.

So now is as good of time as any to get tested.

“Not a lot of bells and whistles, like so many apps that we have on our phones these days. And it’s just so reassuring to know that as more people find out about this and more of us download it and use it, the safer for our community becomes,” said Jeremy Hoffman, the Chief Scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia.

Any questions, the third tab on the COVIDWISE app is there to answer.

Three people did tell WFXR’s sister station they were unable to download the app, all saying they have older iPhones. 

VDH says most iPhones older than iPhone 6s, and without the most recent software won’t be able to download COVIDWISE. The same for android users.

To read more frequently asked questions, click here.

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