Virginia releases COVID-19 contact-tracing app based on technology by Apple and Google

Aug. 10, 2020

The Commonwealth of Virginia launched COVIDWISE, an app that will alert users if they have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia said it is the first state in the country to design a COVID-19 app using Bluetooth Low-Energy technology developed by Apple and Google, which does not rely on personal information or location data. Users opt-in to download and utilize the free app.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) developed COVIDWISE in partnership with Spring ML using funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The free app is available to download through the App Store and the Google Play Store. COVIDWISE is the only app in Virginia allowed to use the exposure notifications system (ENS) application programming interface (API) jointly created by Apple and Google.

COVIDWISE works by using random Bluetooth keys that change every 10 to 20 minutes. Android and iOS devices that have the app installed will anonymously share these random keys if they are within close proximity for at least 15 minutes. Each day, the device downloads a list of all random keys associated with positive COVID-19 results submitted by other app users and checks them against the list of random keys it has encountered in the last 14 days. If there is a match, COVIDWISE may notify the individual, taking into account the date and duration of exposure, and the Bluetooth signal strength which is used to estimate proximity.

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be notified by a VDH case investigator and will be given a unique numeric code. This code is entered into the app by the user and serves as verification of a positive report. Anyone who downloads the app has the option to choose to receive exposure notifications, and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether to share their result anonymously through COVIDWISE.

Visit the Commonwealth of Virginia for more news