MSU Leads the Way with New COVID-19 Exposure Notification App

From an article in MSU Today

The MSU community has a new tool in the fight against COVID-19. The MI COVID Alert app can notify users if they have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

The app, which launched Thursday, Oct. 15, is the result of a partnership between MSU, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS, and the Ingham County Health Department. It is currently available for download on Android and IOS devices.

“This app has the potential to provide the kind of early exposure notification that is critical to preventing the spread of the virus,” said MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences Professor and Project Lead Shawn Turner. “In addition to wearing a mask, social distancing and getting tested, downloading the app is one of the most important steps Spartans can take to help keep our community safe.”

A key element of the pilot is to demonstrate its effectiveness and to conduct research necessary to help MDHHS better understand any potential obstacles to widespread adoption.

MI COVID Alert uses Bluetooth low energy technology to detect nearby phones that are also running the app. When a person tests positive for COVID-19, they receive a pin number from the local health department that allows them to send an anonymous push notification to the phones of other app users they may have been in close contact with.

The app checks for potential exposure every two hours and will notify app users of any contacts that were within six feet for at least 15 minutes during the previous 14 days. Additionally, the app provides users with detailed instructions regarding what to do to avoid potentially spreading the virus and a link to the latest COVID-19 statistics for Michigan.

“Preventing the spread of the virus is of utmost importance, and early detection efforts are essential in our overall approach to battling the virus,” said Michigan State University President Samuel Stanley Jr., M.D. “By downloading the app, Spartans are sending a clear message that we are committed to being part of the solution.”

MI COVID Alert is free, easy to use and will allow users to make informed decisions about behaviors that could spread the virus. Officials caution, however, that the app is just one of many tools in the fight against COVID-19. They note that students still need to avoid large crowds and cooperate with health officials conducting traditional contact tracing.

“In order for the app to be effective in protecting our community, we need every Spartan to download it,” Turner said. “The more users, the more effective it will be in helping us slow the spread.”

The free app is available for download from the Apple and Android app stores beginning Thursday, Oct. 15 and works in conjunction with the newest IOS software. The MI COVID Alert app is a pilot targeting MSU and the surrounding community.

By Samantha Tricarico