More than 430,000 people in Virginia have downloaded COVIDWISE app so far

Posted at 2:04 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 07:37:23-04

NORFOLK, Va. - More than 430,000 people have downloaded the COVIDWISE app since it first launched earlier this month, according to the Department of Health.

That number represents about 10% of people 18-65 years old with smartphones, VDH said.

Recently, a social media post spreading online claimed a COVID-19 sensor has been inserted on people's phones.

Part of that is true. There has been an update to many phones. If someone with an Apple or Android goes to their privacy settings, there is an option for COVID-19 exposure notifications that appears to have been added through Google and Apple, but the user has to download an app and opt in to the program.

"Just having those updates, let's call them updates, we get them many times in our computers and our mobile phones. It should not do anything. It should not expose to anything yet until we start downloading apps like COVIDWISE and accepting all the fine print," said Dr. Ariel Pinto, an Associate Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at Old Dominion University.

The COVIDWISE app relies on Bluetooth technology in smartphones to determine if someone has been close to another person who tests positive for COVID-19. Health officials have stressed the app doesn't track your location or store personal information.

"I believe given the situation and the speed that things need to evolve, it's pretty secure," said Dr. Pinto, who noted Google and Facebook track and store more information than the app.

The app is also voluntary. "I believe in the people's mind there might be some risk, but I would say the benefit at this point in time is worth," Dr. Pinto said.

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