Michigan takes COVID-19 contract tracing app statewide

Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 7:21 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan has a new tool being used in the fight against COVID-19 -- and it’s only a tap away.

The state launched a mobile device app that tracks potential exposure to the illness and alerts those who may have had contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus.

“It’s not always possible for people to identify who they’ve been in close contact with,” said Bob Wheaton, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The MI COVID-19 Alert app has the potential to provide early exposure notifications that can help stop the spread of the virus.

“If somebody tests positive for COVID-19, they can get a PIN number from their local health department and enter that PIN number into the app,” Wheaton said. “And then the app will notify any other people whose phones were within 6 feet of that person’s phone.”

Some people had concerns about using the app, however. They wondered whether someone could track their movement and who would have access to that personal information.

Wheaton said nobody will receive notifications about a specific person’s movements except themselves.

“Basically what the app is doing is working in the background to gather randomly generated phone IDs to then alert those who may have been exposed,” Wheaton said. “So that’s keeping their personal information and real identities safe. So when your phone determines that you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive, it’s notifying you -- not your health department or the state department.”

Downloading the app is free, anonymous and completely voluntary.

“You have to proactively download the app, so it’s not something that’s automatically on your phone or anything like that,” Wheaton said.

The MI COVID-19 Alert app is available on the Apple Store and on Google Play.

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