LANSING, Mich. (WSYM) — Wednesday the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB) announced Spanish and Arabic language options are now available for its anonymous exposure notification mobile app, MI COVID Alert.
“It is critical that we continue to recognize and find ways to meet the diverse needs of communities across our state,” said Robert Gordon, director of MDHHS. “MI COVID Alert is an important tool in our continued efforts to bring the numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths down. We’re excited that this app update will break down language barriers and ensure access for more Michiganders.”
Researchers from Oxford University found a potential to decrease infections and deaths when just 15% of residents used an exposure notification app like MI COVID Alert.
Since launching the English language version last month, MI COVID Alert has been downloaded 481,906 times. This represents nearly 10% of Michigan residents ages 18- to 64-years-old who are likely to have smartphones. Spanish and Arabic options are available through both the Apple and Google app stores.
Rather than using GPS, MI COVID Alert utilizes randomly generated phone codes and low-energy Bluetooth technology to spot distances between phones with the app.
The technology protects the privacy of all users and prevents tracking someone’s precise location. No personally identifiable information is needed or shared with other users and officials. When a person tests positive for COVID-19, they are qualified to receive a randomly generated PIN, which allows individuals to share a positive test result anonymously in MI COVID Alert.
After a positive test result is entered into the app, close contacts will receive an anonymous push notification letting them know they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and the number of days since the possible exposure took place. Close contact is defined as anyone within six feet for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period
App users can now retrieve a PIN in three ways:
- Answering case investigation calls from their local health department or MDHHS and requesting a PIN.
- Calling their local health department.
- Contacting the Michigan COVID-19 hotline at 2-1-1 or 888-535-6136 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Michigan worked with the app developer, as well as Apple and Google, to make MI COVID Alert compatible with apps in other states. Wisconsin, Virginia, Arizona, New York, Alabama, New Jersey, and a growing number of other states have launched similar exposure notifications apps or have apps in development.
MI COVID Alert works in conjunction with traditional contact tracing, proper mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing, but is not a replacement for these safety measures or partaking in contact tracing. People who are exposed to COVID-19 should get tested and consider quarantining for 14 days from the date of the possible exposure. If a person is still symptom-free on day 10, they can end quarantine early but should continue monitoring for symptoms for four additional days.
Those in need of testing can visit the COVID-19 website to find a testing site near them. They may also contact the Michigan COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136 to locate and schedule an appointment.