Pennsylvania launches new coronavirus exposure notification app

Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Pennsylvania launches new coronavirus exposure notification app
Pennsylvania's new coronavirus exposure-notification app is now available on app stores.

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Pennsylvania's new coronavirus exposure-notification app is now available on app stores.

The release of the COVID Alert PA app Tuesday is part of Pennsylvania's effort to more quickly break chains of transmission by using the new technology to notify people who may have been exposed.

The state has a $1.9 million contract, using federal grant dollars, to deploy and maintain the app with software developer NearForm Ltd, an Ireland-based company whose app there has been downloaded by more than one-fourth of that country's residents.

"Your phone is building up a log of other phones it's coming into contact with that are using the exposure notification service," said Colm Harte of NearForm.

RELATED: Delaware launches COVID Alert DE app to stop virus spread

The app is based on smartphone technology developed by Apple and Google.

The app is interoperable with the state of Delaware's app, which released last week, and it will be interoperable with those of other states when they launch on the NearForm platform, state officials say.

Use will be limited to people 18 and over.

It is designed to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus, and state officials say the app does not store location information, personal information or the identify of anyone who is in close enough range to possibly be exposed.

In addition to exposure notification, the Pennsylvania app has a data feature that allows the user to see up-to-date information on case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths by county, as well a feature that helps the user to monitor their symptoms even if they have not tested positive.

RELATED: New Jersey officials working on smartphone app to help with contact tracing

According to the Action News data journalism team, Pennsylvania and Delaware have seen a new rise in cases since August 27. In Pennsylvania, the rise is specific to two counties with a heavy presence of college students - Indiana and Centre counties.

Delaware and New Jersey are also seeing an increase in cases in college towns. But, data also shows new patients are mostly young with mild or no symptoms.

Pennsylvania has tested 15% of the state population, New Jersey has tested 38% and Delaware has tested 28%.