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Health Team

NC encourages people to download, use COVID-19 tracking app

Posted November 2, 2020 5:07 a.m. EST
Updated November 2, 2020 9:46 a.m. EST

— More than 300,000 people have downloaded the SlowCOVIDNC app, which alerts them when they come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Since September, when the app was first released, only 84 people have notified others of their positive test result. However, the app has sent 475 exposure notifications, possibly preventing hundreds of people from being exposed to someone with the virus.

SlowCOVIDNC uses Google and Apple's Exposure Notification System (ENS) to alert users if they have been in close contact with someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus. The app relies on volunteers to anonymously report when they have been in close contact with a person who tested positive.

State health officials said they started promoting the app with college students but are now expanding to the business community. The app could help people voting on Election Day or in any crowd.

SlowCOVIDNC can be downloaded to Apple and Android devices, but Bluetooth must be turned on and notifications must be enabled for the app to work. The app does not use geolocation or GPS data.

How it works

  • Users must download the app, enable Bluetooth and allow "exposure notifications."
  • Once a user allows notifications, the app will generate an ID "token," or a string of random letters, every 10 to 20 minutes to protect the user's identity, location and security.
  • Using Bluetooth, phones with the SlowCOVIDNC app exchange anonymous tokens every few minutes, recording how long people are near each other and the Bluetooth signal strength of their exchanges in order to estimate distance.
  • If an app user tests positive for coronavirus, the individual may obtain a unique PIN through a web-based portal to submit in the app.
  • By voluntarily and anonymously reporting their status, people who have been in close contact with the user in the last 14 days will receive an alert.
  • Once a person tests positive and anonymously submits his or her result, the phone will use records of past signal strength and duration of exposures to notify any users who may have been exposed.
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