COVID Alert NY: What You Need to Know
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Overview

COVID Alert NY is a free download for iPhone and Android smartphones, available from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. You must be at least 18 years old to use or have parental consent.

COVID Alert NY is the voluntary, anonymous, exposure-notification smartphone app.

  • The app keeps track of when people are close to another app-enabled smartphone using Bluetooth technology.
  • The app alerts you if you were in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
  • The app also alerts other app-enabled smartphones if you test positive for COVID-19 and were in close contact with those individuals, based upon your consent to share close contact codes.
  • The app allows people to track symptoms and examine trends.

How it Works

two people running

As the person goes about their day, the app uses Bluetooth to sense when another person with the same app comes within 6 feet.  Your phone exchanges a secure random code with the other phone to record that they were near.

If the app senses that you’ve been with 6 feet of someone for more than 10 minutes, the app adds their phone’s random code on a list of close contacts. People who are just passing by or stand more than 6 feet away from you are NOT included on the list. You’ll never get any alerts because of them.

For those who test positive for COVID-19, a Case Investigator from the county health department will ask if the person is willing share the app’s list of “close contact” codes to help protect other people.  Sharing your list is secure and private. The app never reveals who you are to anyone.

Each day, the list of codes for “confirmed cases” is sent to every phone that has the app. The app compares its own list of close contact codes to the list of confirmed cases. If there’s a match, the app displays a COVID alert. Using these lists of anonymous codes, the alert is kept private. No one ever knows who the COVID Alert comes from.

Privacy

Exposure logging and notifications are completely anonymous. You will not be able to identify anyone that potentially exposed you to COVID-19, and others will not be able to identify you if you potentially exposed them. Your information is completely private and confidential. The app does not collect your name or personal information.

The COVID Alert NY app collects a combination of information provided by you, if you choose (the county you live in, your gender, your age-range, your race and ethnicity, and your symptoms), as well as information generated by using the app itself. This data is recorded anonymously and any of this data that is shared with the NYS Department of Health cannot be used to identify you or any other individual using the app.

If you have logging enabled, the Exposure Notification feature within your phone’s Operating System (OS) will collect the random codes of other smartphones that are within 6 feet of your phone for longer than 10 minutes. If you’re in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, the app will share the most recent date that you were in close contact with that person. Your phone automatically shares your phone’s IP address with the back-end server (an IP is a network address for your computer, so the Internet knows where to send you emails, data, etc.) for the purposes of logging exposures. The app will use the IP address in its communication with the server to request exposure information but does not collect or store your phone’s IP address itself. The server also does not store your IP address. This process ensures anonymity with all app users.

You can delete your personal information at any time. First, click the “App Settings” icon at the bottom of the screen. Select the menu option to “Delete my Data,” then click the red button that reads “Delete my Data.” When prompted, click “Confirm.” Once confirmed, your data is permanently deleted and cannot be recovered. However, using the “Delete my Data” option will still keep a log of exposures stored on your phone. To delete exposure data, you must turn off Exposure Notifications and delete this data through your actual iOS or Android settings.

You may also delete your COVID Alerts (if you received any) through the “My COVID Alerts” option within the app settings menu. If you received any alerts, click on “My COVID Alerts”, then select “Delete All” on the subsequent screen. If you do not have any COVID Alerts, you will not see this “Delete All” button.

A limited set of aggregate app health metrics data is also generated from using the app and shared with the NYSDOH to supplement the contact tracing process. Any aggregate contact tracing data shared with NYSDOH from the app cannot be used to identify any individual app user. A user can choose to opt-out of sharing certain app metrics data at any time through the app settings menu.

Additional metrics related to app adoption and usage are also collected including number of app downloads and deletions. The app developers or NYSDOH cannot identify any specific user that has downloaded or deleted the app. Any user that downloads the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store is subject to Apple and Google’s overall app store privacy policies. 

The full Data and Privacy policy can be accessed directly within the app settings screen.

Setup

  1. Upon launching the app, you will see the COVID ALERT NY title screen (this will remain on the screen for just a few second(s).
    Screenshot of the settings options within the app on your phone
  2. If this is the first time you are using the app, you must first confirm you are over 18.  If you’re a minor, your parent/guardian must confirm/authorize your use of the app.
  3. The app will prompt you to set up both the proximity settings and alerts. Simply click the “Get Started” button to begin.
  4. You will see an explanation for both the proximity and alert settings.  To enable these settings, click the “Next” button.
  5. The first prompt will ask you to enable the “COVID-19 Exposure Logging and Notifications.” The pop-up prompt will include a description of the setting as it relates to the app.  Click the “Enable” button.
  6. The second prompt will ask you to all the “COVID Alert NY” app to send you notifications. Again, the pop-up prompt will include a description of the setting as it relates to the app.  Click the “Allow” button.
  7. You will see a confirmation screen that “Closeness Sensing and COVID Alerts are active!  Click the “Done” button to complete the process.  NOTE: clicking the “Share” button will allow you to share a link to download the app by email or text message.  Sharing is optional.
  8. You are now brought to the NY COVID Data screen.  After this initial setup, the NY COVID Data screen is the default screen you will see each time to start the app.

My Health Log

Health Log is an optional feature that tracks how you’re feeling each day and gives basic advice about your symptoms. The COVID Alert NY app stores a history of your health that you can review at any time. The daily logs are shared anonymously with the NYS Department of Health. NYS uses this data to better understand how COVID-19 is affecting New Yorkers.

How to Setup

Click the “My Health Log” icon on the bottom of the screen.  Then click the button “Get Started”

The next screen will allow you add some basic demographic information:

  • The county you live in
  • Your gender
  • Your age-range
  • Your race and ethnicity
  • Your symptoms

Each response is optional.  When you’re done, click the “Continue” button.

The next screen asks if you have any of the following 11 symptoms.

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches or body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever or feeling feverish (such as chills or sweating)
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • No symptoms, you are feeling well

If you select one or more symptoms on a given day, you will be presented with recommended next steps and contact information for the COVID Alert NY hotline as well as the link to find a COVID-19 test site.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I need to keep Bluetooth running for the app to work?

You will need to have Bluetooth enabled to use the exposure logging feature of the app. It is Bluetooth technology that enables the app to collect the random codes of other smartphones that are within 6 feet of your phone for 10 minutes or more. If you’re in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, the app will share the most recent date that you were in close contact with that person.

 

Do I have to keep my app open for it to work or does it work in the background?

You do not need to keep the app open for it to work. If you have Bluetooth and Exposure Notifications enabled via the app onboarding process, you may go about your day and the app will work in the background.

 

Can I turn the app off temporarily, such as when I am at home and away from others, or if I am in a healthcare setting?

It is recommended to keep the core app features on at all times to help keep yourself and others safe. However, you can temporarily turn off Bluetooth which will stop your phone from securely exchanging keys with other app users. You may still receive exposure alerts within the app based on your activity prior to turning off Bluetooth (up to a 14-day lookback). Turning off Bluetooth will stop your phone from logging exposures from that point forward. You may also completely disable Exposure Notifications on your phone through your iOS or Android settings menu, but doing this will completely erase all exposure data from the last 14 days off of your phone and is not recommended.

 

Will the app drain my phone battery?

The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology which when compared to apps that use classic Bluetooth, provides considerably reduced power consumption while holding a similar communication range. Battery consumption may vary based on phone type and settings configuration. 

 

What phones support the app?

The app will work on most Android (6.0 or higher) or iOS devices (13.5 or higher).

For Apple users, please follow these instructions to check your phone's version:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201685#:~:text=On%20an%20iPhone%2C%20iPad%2C%20or,%3E%20General%2C%20then%20tap%20About

For Android users, please follow these instructions to check your phone's version:

https://support.google.com/android/answer/7680439?hl=en

 

How can I reset the language setting?

With the app open, click the “App Settings” icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the app. From the settings menu, select the “third” menu item from the top.  From the list, select your preferred language. Note that the English equivalent to each language will appear in parentheses.

 

Why is the app asking for a password?

The COVID Alert NY app will never ask for your password or any identifying information. However, there are some settings designed by Google and Apple that may prompt you for passwords, Face IDs, or Touch IDs that are linked to your Apple or Android account. The password should be the same as your Apple ID or Google Play services. This password is NOT logged, stored, or used for COVID Alert NY.

 

Will the notification exposures still work in battery save mode?

Yes, Exposure Notification services continue to work when your device is in a battery saving mode.  You will also continue to receive notification alerts.

 

When does the graph data update?

To refresh the data on your NY COVID Data tab, drag your finger down on the screen until you see a spinning wheel at the top.  Once you release your finger, and the app data will update.  The NY COVID data graphs only display up through the previous day. The previous day’s data is not available until 2PM EST. Refreshing after 2PM EST should then display data up through the previous day.

 

I tested positive for COVID-19, where do I get my 6 digit code to enter into the app?

If you test positive after downloading the app and enabling exposure notifications, you will be eligible to receive a 6-digit code from a contact tracing case investigator from your Local Health Department. A case investigator, as a part of the normal contact tracing process will provide this code to you either over the phone or through text message (with your consent). You can choose whether to enter this code into your app or not. Entering this code may trigger exposure alerts to any other app user that may have come into close contact with you, and can help keep others safe.

 

I tested positive prior to installing this app. If I install the app, will it trigger any exposure alerts for others?

Exposure alerts are based on your random key exchanges between app users, and those exchanges begin after you install the app and enable Exposure Notifications. The app will not know if you had previously tested positive for COVID-19. If you tested positive prior to enabling Exposure Notifications, you will not trigger any exposure alerts to any other app users. If you tested positive prior to installing the app, you will not receive a 6-digit positive code to enter into your app.

 

I tested positive for COVID-19 and shared my close contact codes, which triggered exposure alerts to other app users. Will my future activity trigger any additional exposure alerts for others?

If you test positive and share your close contact codes within the app, exposure alerts will be sent to other app users based on your previous activity (up to a 14 day look back). Any of your future activity will not trigger any additional alerts.

 

 

Does the app work outside of the state of New York?

Exposure Notification technology is set up based on the region that you are in (in the US, it is based on the State that you are in). By downloading the COVID Alert NY App and going through the onboarding process, your phone will automatically set your Exposure Notification region to New York. If you travel outside of the state of New York, your phone may continue to exchange anonymous keys with out of state contacts, but you will only receive Exposure Notifications based on your exposure to other app users using same Exposure Notification key server as New York (through the Association of Public Health Laboratories).

 

Do New Yorkers need to download the app of other states if they travel to another state?

New York is working with Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey to ensure that the apps will work across state lines. This means that someone from New York who visits one of these other three states would not have to download their state specific app. However, other states may have different exposure parameters (e.g. 10 min vs. 15 min), so it is important for you to download the app and enable Exposure Notifications based on the State which you are currently living in and where you expect to be tested if needed.

 

How do I submit feedback about the app?

Your feedback is important to us. You may submit technical related feedback by using the "Submit Feedback" option within the app settings menu. You can select the type of feedback that you would like to submit (enhancement, issue, general feedback), and it will trigger an email to our app developers and NYSDOH.

Please do not use this option for clinical questions or feedback. If you have clinical questions related to notifications from the app, please call the app hotline. (1-833-227-5045)

For NYC: Call the Test & Trace COVID Hotline for more information or to find a NYC test site. 212-COVID (212-268-4319)

 

 

What should I do if I receive an alert from the app?

You received an alert because you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19. There may be a risk you’ll develop COVID-19, so you should quarantine yourself at home, talk to your doctor and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and others.

 

What immediate steps does the app direct for those who are potentially exposed?

The app provides basic directions for keeping yourself and others safe:

  • Get Tested
  • Call the Hotline
  • Separate yourself from others (quarantine)
  • Stay at home for 14 days except to seek medical care and to get a COVID test.
  • Don’t have visitors
  • Call your doctor to find out if you should be tested
  • Wash your hands often and cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Sleep by yourself and use a separate bathroom from others in your household
  • Have food brought to you
  • Bag up your garbage and leave it outside your door
  • Monitor your temperature and symptoms carefully
  • Call ahead if you must leave to seek health care, and wear a mask when you go

 

Does this alert mean that I will get COVID-19?

It does not necessarily mean you will develop COVID-19, but since you have been exposed, there is a risk that you may develop the illness. Please separate yourself from others, call your health care provider, and use the app to monitor your symptoms over the next two weeks.

 

How will I know if I develop COVID-19? What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are cough and fever. You may also experience difficulty breathing, headaches, sore throat, congestion, confusion, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle aches, loss of taste or smell and fatigue. Symptoms can show up between 2 and 14 days after an exposure. Here is a link to a site that shows the most common symptoms of COVID-19:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

 

How can I be sure this alert is legitimate? Can’t anyone just say they are positive as a ‘joke’ and set off an alert?

The alert is legitimate. Your phone collected data that you were within 6 feet for longer than 10 minutes of one or more individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. This person’s positive test result was verified by your Local Health Department.  Once verified, that person received a unique code from the Local Health Department. The code allows an alert to be sent that notifies a person that they were exposed on the date indicated in the alert. No one can send an alert from their app without this code.

 

How close was I to someone with COVID-19 and for how long?

The app is programmed to collect information for an exposure to one or more COVID positive individuals within 6ft for longer than 10 minutes. We do not have the exact distance or amount of time of your exposure.

For purposes of COVID-19 contact investigations and potential movement restrictions such as quarantine, NYSDOH defines close contact as being within 6 feet of an individual for 10 minutes or more.

https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2020/04/doh_covid19_lhdcontacttracing_040820.pdf

 

Will exposures still be logged if I am within 6 feet of someone for more than 10 minutes, but separated by a wall or an object?

Bluetooth technology has been known to work through walls, but some walls or objects may decrease or impact Bluetooth range. Exposure logging is most effective when your device is within 6 feet of another device and not separated by objects that may reduce Bluetooth range.

 

Am I legally mandated to quarantine?

NYS guidance on contact and quarantine of close contacts can be found here.

https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2020/03/quarantine_guidance_0.pdf

You have been identified as being exposed to COVID-19 so you should stay home and quarantine. In addition, you may be notified by your local health department about quarantine and they will provide you with details on how to quarantine safely. You may receive a phone call from a contact tracer related to this exposure so please be on the lookout for such a call and respond as soon as possible.

 

Can you use this app to determine if anyone is violating their quarantine orders?

No, this app does not track an individual’s location, and it is not meant to determine if someone is violating their quarantine orders or disobeying any guidance issued by their healthcare provider, local health department, or the State health department.

 

Can I still go to work or school if I received a notification from this app?

Please follow the guidance on the exposure notification page within the app if you have been alerted that you were exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Please stay home and talk to your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment to get tested. You may also use the NYS test site locator to help you schedule a COVID test. Please follow the instructions issued by your healthcare provider regarding the return to work or school. We recommend that you do not return to work or school and avoid close contact with others while awaiting results of your test.

 

Should the people in my household quarantine as well?

Other people in your household do not need to quarantine based on an alert from this app. However, if you or anyone in your household begins experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, we recommend that they seek out COVID testing as soon as possible and avoid close contact with others while awaiting results.

 

How do I quarantine safely? How long do I need to quarantine for?

To safely quarantine, please stay in your home for the next 14 days, unless you are visiting a healthcare provider. If you live with others, please try to stay within your room. If you need to go outside your room, wear a mask and wipe everything you touch down with disinfectant.  If possible, use a separate bathroom from everyone else in your home. If a separate bathroom is not possible, clean all touched surfaces with disinfectant cleaner after use. Try to have your family or friends deliver food to you outside of your door.

 

Will I be able to ask for sick and/or paid leave from my employer based on the alert I received from this app?

If you are issued a quarantine order, you MAY be eligible for paid leave. In response to the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), New York State has guaranteed workers job protection and financial compensation in the event they, or their minor dependent child, are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the state of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any government entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19. If you have questions about your eligibility, please call your local health department or visit: https://paidfamilyleave.ny.gov/COVID19

 

I live alone. Will someone be able to help me with groceries over the next few weeks?

If you need support during your time staying home, you should call your local health department to discuss local resources available.

 

I am under 18 years old, but I downloaded the app and got an alert. What should I do now?

This app is for persons 18 and over and we are not allowed to discuss this issue with minors. Please show this to your parent or legal guardian. If they have questions, they can call the hotline number (1-833-227-5045).

For NYC: Call the Test & Trace COVID Hotline for more information or to find a NYC test site. 212-COVID (212-268-4319)

 

Should I get tested for COVID-19?

Based on your healthcare provider’s recommendation and local health department guidance, you might get tested. However, COVID-19 can take up to two weeks to show up on a test. Even if you receive a negative result, you should still continue to quarantine.

 

Where can I get tested?

Please refer to https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/find-test-site-near-you to see where your closest testing site is. We can also assist in scheduling at a NYS testing site near you.

 

How long should I wait before I get tested? 

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, seek testing immediately. Otherwise the CDC does not recommend getting tested until at least 3 days after potential exposure and if negative, again 14 days after exposure.

 

I already tested positive for COVID-19 weeks/months ago and was told I no longer have to isolate. Do I need to quarantine again because of this alert? Can I get COVID-19 more than once?

Based on our current understanding of COVID-19, we do not know exactly how long a past infection with COVID-19 may prevent you from contracting it again. Because of this, you should quarantine and call your health care provider and if you begin to experience symptoms of COVID-19, you should consider getting tested again.

 

I tested positive for COVID-19. How do I activate an alert to my contacts from my app?

You will need a special code from a New York State Department of Health caseworker to do that. Someone from your local health department will be reaching out to you within 24-48  hours to verify your test result and guide you through the process. Please be on the lookout for a phone call from a representative from your local county health department.

 

I accidentally turned off Exposure Notifications through iOS or Android settings. How can I turn it back on?

If you turn off ENS through your operating system settings, you can turn it back on by opening your COVID Alert NY app, selecting the “My COVID Alerts” tab at the bottom, and following the on-screen prompts to re-enable ENS. Trying to re-enable ENS directly from your operating system settings menu will not work. Remember, ENS must be enabled for at least 24 hours for your phone to start logging exposure data.

 

Will the app log exposures if you were in close contact with multiple COVID positive individuals for less than 10 minutes?

Exposure Notification technology may send you an alert if you were in close contact with multiple COVID positive individuals at separate times during the same 24-hour window, even if those interactions were less than 10 minutes each.

The 10-minute threshold is cumulative. If you spend (within a 24-hour window) …

  • 5 minutes next to Person A
  • 3 minutes next to Person B
  • 3 minutes next to Person C

...and person A, B, and C are confirmed positive and upload keys, you will get an exposure notification since the cumulative time is over 10 minutes.

 

My positive code expired. Can I get another one?

Your Local Health Department case investigator should either read the positive code to you over the phone or send it to you via SMS/Text with your consent. You have one hour from the time of code issuance to enter it into your app. If your code has expired, please contact your Local Health Department to get you into contact with a representative to issue a new code from the contact tracing system. If you do not know your Local Health Department contact information, please visit https://nysacho.org/directory to locate the contact number.

 

In addition to logging my daily symptoms, can I upload my previous test result data or any other medical data such as diagnoses?

The COVID Alert NY app collects a limited set of symptom data to track how you are feeling each day. We do not collect any data related to your medical history such as test results, diagnoses, or provider information.

 

Do any of my exposure alerts or symptoms data get sent to my healthcare provider or to my local health department?

Any alerts that you may receive in this app or symptoms that you log are completely anonymous, so the data that is collected cannot be linked to your healthcare provider(s) or Local Health Department. Please visit our comprehensive privacy policy on our website for more details on what data is collected and how your privacy is protected.

 

Does the app work on jailbroken phones or rooted phones?

You may be able to download the COVID Alert NY App on a jailbroken or rooted device, but you will not be able to go through the onboarding process and turn on Exposure Notifications.

 

My android device says I must have location services enabled to turn on bluetooth. Does this mean you are tracking my location?

For some older Android versions, you must enable Location Services to be able to turn on Bluetooth functionality on your device. However, this is a core operating system requirement, and not an app requirement. Even if you enable Location Services on your device for Bluetooth purposes, the app itself does not use location services and does not track your location.

 

I see that open source code was used in the development of this app. Can you share that with me?

 

The open source code used for the development in this app can be found in our GitHub repository:

https://www.github.com/covid-alert-ny/covid-green-app

 

I have one or more medical conditions that present symptoms similar to COVID-19 symptoms. Can I still use my health log?

The My Health Log feature is intended to track your symptoms on a daily basis. It is your choice to use this feature within the app. We recommend that you do not record your expected symptoms that may be caused by other chronic medical conditions. Since we do not collect any data related to your medical history such as diagnoses, the logging of any symptoms in My Health Log may provide messaging that indicates that your symptoms may be signs of COVID-19. The app will not know if your symptoms are being caused by COVID-19 any other medical condition. Any messaging within the app based on the use of My Health Log is not a formal diagnosis of COVID-19 or any other condition. If you have any questions or concerns about any symptoms that you are experiencing, please contact your healthcare provider.