Walz unveils mobile app to notify Minnesotans of COVID-19 exposure

A new mobile app is available in Minnesota that will alert users if they have been exposed to COVID-19 and should be tested for the disease. 

Gov. Tim Walz unveiled the COVIDaware MN app Monday, which he described as “another tool in our toolbox” to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The app was developed through a partnership between Apple and Google and can be downloaded for free in either the Apple or Google app stores. It is currently being used by around 20 states. 

When people download the app and opt-in to receive exposure notifications, their phone will generate a random key that changes every 10-20 minutes to protect the user’s identity. When two phones with the app are within 6 feet of each other for at least 15 minutes—the definition of close contact—the phones exchange those random keys via Bluetooth, Minnesota IT Services Commissioner Tarek Tomes explained. 

“When someone tests positive [for COVID-19], they have the choice of using the app to warn others,” Tomes said. 

Health officials will provide to the person who tested positive which they can enter into the app. People who have been in close contact with that person within the infected period will then receive a notification from the app that they may have had a potential exposure. 

Tomes said the app will not tell you who triggered the notification, where the exposure potentially occurred nor the precise time of the exposure, it will only provide a broad date range for when the exposure occurred. The app does not use your identity or share your identity with others, track your location or access personal information on your phone such as your contacts. 

Officials are encouraging all Minnesotans to download the app to increase its effectiveness. 

“The more people that use it, the better it works,” Tomes said. 

If you receive an COVID-19 exposure notification from the app, MDH says you need to get tested. The app will give you a date range for when the exposure likely happened. Health officials say people should quarantine for 14 days, even if they get a negative test result. 

“This is not contact tracing,” Walz said of the app. “This is not in and of itself going to stop the spread. It’s another valuable tool that helps us do that.” 

More information on the COVIDaware MN app can be found here