BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Maryland Department of Health launched MD COVID Alert Tuesday, which will notify state residents if they may have been exposed to someone with coronavirus.

Its goal is to reduce infections and COVID-19 spread in the state.

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

“This is another tool in our toolbox that will help us stem the tide of COVID-19 transmission in our communities,” Dr. Katherine Feldman, MDH contact tracing unit director, said. “It allows us to reach another segment of the population that we might not be able to through our traditional contact tracing program.”

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: 

HOW TO SIGN UP

Maryland iPhone users can opt in to the notifications by enabling them in their phone’s settings and selecting Maryland as the region. Android users will have to download the MD COVID Alert app from the Google Play store. It’s available at no cost and you can disable notifications at anytime.

How to turn on exposure notifications in your iPhone.

HOW IT WORKS

Each user is assigned a random number known as a random ID. They change every 10 to 20 minutes so they cannot be used to identify users or their whereabouts.

Each day, a user’s phone will download 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. It uses Bluetooth technology to figure out which IDs have been in close proximity.

If there’s 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.

PRIVACY CONCERNS

According to the health department, “MD COVID Alert was specifically designed to protect the privacy and personal information of users.”

Users remain anonymous, their location is never tracked, and no data is collected from their smartphones.

Using Bluetooth technology, the system can detect if two devices are near each other without revealing where the devices are or who they belong to.

“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.”

For more information about MD COVID Alert, visit covidlink.maryland.gov/mdcovidalert. Learn about Maryland’s contact tracing initiative here.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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