The app uses Bluetooth technology to notify someone if their phone has come into close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

By Alison Fox
October 02, 2020

Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in New York, the state’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo partnered with New Jersey’s governor on Thursday to launch a pair of state-specific contact tracing and exposure notification apps.

The apps, COVID Alert NY and COVID Alert NJ, use Bluetooth technology to notify someone if their phone has come into close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. The apps utilize the Exposure Notification System technology developed by both Apple and Google and do not track or collect any personal or location data.

For purposes of the notification system, close contact is defined as being within six feet of someone who tested positive for at least 10 minutes. The data on the app, which is offered in several languages, includes publicly reported testing data as well as allows users to anonymously record their own symptoms.

“Testing is only as good as your contact tracing," Cuomo said in a statement. "We have about 15,000 people statewide who do contact tracing, they call them disease detectives. But we've been looking for a technology-based solution.”

The development of the app comes as the state is monitoring 20 “hotspot zip codes” with a higher positive test rate than the rest of New York, Cuomo said. In those zip codes, the average rate of positive tests was 6.5 percent, compared to only 0.98 percent for the rest of the state, excluding those zip codes.

New York and New Jersey aren’t alone in developing an app to contact trace the spread of COVID-19. Pennsylvania and Delaware have also created a regional app, and Connecticut will launch its Exposure Notification System in the coming weeks, according to Cuomo’s office.

people walk inside of Grand Central Terminal
Credit: Noam Galai/Getty

Several countries have also created similar apps. In May, Switzerland launched a "SwissCovid" app, and New Zealand has its own app that encourages users to log their travel information. And South Africa, which reopened its borders to some tourists on Thursday, visitors are required to download and use a contact-tracing app.

New York has been trying to contain the potential spread of the virus from out-of-state sources, requiring visitors to quarantine if they come from dozens of states with high rates of COVID-19 and implementing a fine if they don’t comply.

Earlier this week, Cuomo added several foreign countries to the quarantine list, mandating visitors from all but 31 nations around the globe quarantine and fill out the NYS Department of Health traveler health form.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.