The COVID Alert PA App (App) is made available by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH). The App is designed to assist in alerting individuals that came in close proximity with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19, and to provide information about the virus and steps for controlling the spread of the virus.
The use of this App is entirely voluntary, and it is available to download for free from the Google Play Store. The App runs on Android phones running Android 6.0 and higher. The App is not intended for use by persons under 18 years of age. Users will be asked to confirm that they are 18 years or older the first time the App is opened.
How the COVID Alert PA App works
As opposed to the traditional contract tracing process where a positive COVID-19 individual may not even remember who they have been in contact with recently and for how long (for example, if the contact happened on a bus or a train, at a check-out line in a grocery store, or at a restaurant or some other public venue), the App uses technology developed by Apple and Google where anonymous Random IDs (pseudo random alpha numeric values) are exchanged between mobile phones. A Random ID is generated by the phone every 10 to 20 minutes to maintain privacy and security. If you are close to someone who also uses the App on their phone, your Random ID will be saved on that person’s phone and their Random ID will be saved on your phone. All Random IDs collected will remain on your mobile device, but neither you, nor anyone else, will be able to see them. These anonymous Random IDs cannot reveal your identity to other users, DOH, Apple, Google or anyone else.
If an individual receives a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, they will receive a call from DOH or their local county or municipal health department within 24-72 hours for case investigation and contact tracing purposes. If that individual has the App downloaded, a public health representative will ask the individual if they are willing to accept a 6-digit validation code. If they agree, a 6-digit validation code will be sent to them via SMS/text message to be entered into the App, which then gives the individual the option to upload their Random IDs to a DOH diagnosis keys server.
Users who were in close contact with a positive COVID-19 individual who submitted their 6-digit code in the app will receive an Exposure Alert. The app knows when to provide the user with an Exposure Alert by downloading the latest diagnosis keys from the server every four hours and checking for matches. These diagnosis keys are checked for matches against the Random IDs of the contacts that have been collected by your phone. If there is a match, you will be notified in the app that you were in close contact with a person who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. This is called an “Exposure Alert. To ensure that Exposure Alerts work properly, users must have COVID-19 Exposure Notification Services (ENS) enabled on their phone. Users have the option to enable the COVID-19 ENS and permit their phone to display notifications when they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Users can turn off this functionality in the settings page of the App.
In the event you receive an Exposure Notification, you will be offered advice on the Exposure Notification Information screen, and if you would like to speak with a public health representative, you can provide your phone number and someone from DOH will call you.
It is important to note that both traditional contact tracing and the App never reveal the identity of any person using the App to other App users, and never reveal who has been diagnosed as positive for COVID-19. Also, if you do not want a call from a public health representative and do not enter your phone number, DOH will not know whether you have received an Exposure Notification.
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