Nearly 1 million Wisconsinites have signed up to be notified about close contacts with positive coronavirus cases, a week after the state launched the technology.
The WI Exposure Notification system went live Dec. 23, allowing phones to anonymously trade Bluetooth signals with other phones nearby. The program allows Wisconsinites to opt-in by enabling notifications on their iPhones or downloading an app via Google Play.
More than 930,000 people have enabled the technology on their phone as of Sunday, said Elizabeth Goodsitt, communications specialist for the state Department of Health Services.
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The department doesn’t have data on how many people have received notifications that they’ve had close contact with a positive case, but positive test codes have been issued, Goodsitt said. Some of those codes have been entered into the system to notify contacts.
The technology was launched after contact tracers struggled to keep up with a large wave of coronavirus cases this fall. The high number of infections forced some public health departments to give up on traditional contact tracing — in which tracers would conduct extensive interviews with positive cases and reach out to those in close contact — to move faster.
The app doesn’t store or collect GPS or personal data but does share anonymous signals with other phones that have enabled the technology nearby.
Those who test positive for the virus are given a code to enter into the app, which then allows the app to notify devices that their phone has shared Bluetooth signals with during the time frame the person was contagious — which is 48 to 72 hours before the infected person started to show symptoms.
Laura Schulte can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @SchulteLaura.