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Maryland launches its coronavirus exposure notification app

Marylanders can now use MD COVID Alert to receive COVID-19 exposure notifications on smartphones. Here's how it works.

BALTIMORE — Following Virginia's COVIDWise app, and The District's DC CAN app, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) rolled out its own coronavirus exposure notification app on Tuesday.

MD COVID Alert uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to quickly notify users who might have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 with the goal of reducing infections in Maryland. 

“MD COVID Alert complements our traditional contact tracing efforts to notify users of possible exposure to help contain the virus,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “I encourage Marylanders to use MD COVID Alert to help protect the people around them, including those they might not know directly.” 

Starting Tuesday, Marylanders with an iPhone or Android smartphone will receive a push notification inviting them to receive exposure notification alerts. iPhone users will be able to opt in by enabling exposure notifications in their phone’s settings and selecting Maryland as their region. Android users will be prompted to opt in by installing the MD COVID Alert app from the Google Play Store. MD COVID Alert is available at no cost and is voluntary. Users can disable exposure notifications at any time. 

MD COVID Alert assigns users a random number, referred to as a random ID. To ensure these random IDs cannot be used to identify users or their whereabouts, they change every 10 to 20 minutes. User devices exchange the random IDs through Bluetooth Low Energy technology.

On a daily basis, a user’s phone downloads a list of all the random IDs associated with verified positive COVID-19 cases and checks them against the random IDs users have encountered in the two days prior to the positive test or symptom onset. If there is a match, the system will notify users of the date of exposure. No other information about the exposure is shared. Users who receive an exposure notification alert are advised to get tested, monitor their health for symptoms, and quarantine. Some users may receive a call from a contact tracer if their information is shared by an individual with COVID-19.

MDH officials say the app prioritizes privacy. Users remain anonymous, their location is never tracked, and no data is collected from their smartphones. 

“Privacy is important. MD COVID Alert does not collect, transmit, or store personal information of users, and the system is completely anonymous,” said Dr. Katherine Feldman, MDH Contact Tracing Unit Director. “We’re asking Marylanders to add their smartphones to the fight against COVID-19 by using MD COVID Alert.” 

Maryland is dealing with an uptick in coronavirus cases. On Monday, Maryland reported a new all-time high for its seven-day average, which is now at 1,197 cases a day. The state is also on its fourth-consecutive day reporting more than 1,000 cases.

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