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TRENTON, NJ – A new phone app is about to be rolled out to New Jersey that will track and monitor residents’ locations and warn them if they have come in contact with somebody who has COVID-19 according to New Jersey Health Department Commissioner Judith Persichili. Persichilli said on Wednesday, the app is being tested by state employees and students at three New Jersey colleges.
“To enhance the New Jersey’s contact tracing efforts, we are enlisting technology. We have begun piloting an exposure notification mobile app. In addition to testing the app with state workers internally, we also have been testing the app with three colleges: Montclair State University, Passaic County Community College and Stockton University. The app communicates through Bluetooth on mobile devices,” Persichili said. “It will detect and log anonymous codes from devices with the app that are in close contact, within six feet of a user for 10 minutes or longer. You may not even know that you’ve been exposed, but the app will tell you. The app can alert users if they have been potentially exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and provide information on what to do next.”
Persichili continued to echo the importance of New Jersey residents to stop ignoring the Governor’s nearly 2,000 contact tracers.
“Yesterday, the CDC released a study of two contact tracing programs in North Carolina that found challenges with participation among the residents. Although the two county health departments studied investigated the majority of their cases, a high proportion of persons with COVID-19 did not report their contacts,” she added. “Therefore many contacts were not reached, reducing the impact of contact tracing as a mitigation strategy. The CDC study found improved timeliness of contact tracing and community engagement are needed to interrupt virus transmission.”
The commissioner said the app does not retain any personal information and does not collect location data from the user’s mobile phone.
“We recognize that protecting individuals privacy is key and the app does not use location data or collect personal information. It also offers daily information on COVID-19 numbers, deaths, cases, hospitalizations by county, and will also provide symptom tracking. This testing period is vital to improve the user experience and to resolve any technical issues that arise. In total, we’ve had 130 individuals piloting the app,” she said. “It has been receiving good reviews from testers, 4.6 out of 5 stars, and the issues raised by those who found problems are being addressed. The pilot will wrap up this week, and we will examine all the feedback received and make necessary improvements with the app developer before rolling it out statewide.”