Americans have been asked to make responsible decisions this year in order to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, but it can be difficult to make appropriate choices without meaningful information. That is why Tech:NYC has created COVID Alert NY, New York's official contact tracing app designed to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
More than 200,000 New Yorkers signed up within the first 24 hours of the app's launch, according to Julie Samuels, executive director at Tech:NYC.
So how exactly does this technology work?
Once participants download the app from Google Play or the App Store on iOS, they will receive a notification if they've been within six feet of an infected person for 10 minutes or longer and will then be prompted to take a test or advised to quarantine.
It is the responsibility of an infected person to report their status on the app for the most accurate results.
But as privacy concerns sit in the forefront of our minds, particularly with sensitive medical information, Samuels made assurances that a user's data is protected.
"This is why it's so important that Google and Apple are working with state governments," Samuels said. "It's an important distinction that the app uses bluetooth and not GPS, which means that no one knows where you were, just that you were near another phone at some point."
Samuels recommends not signing up for an app that has not partnered with state governments. Tech:NYC created the app in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health.
The COVID Alert NY app, according to Samuels, is another tool in our defense against the virus and should be used regularly in the same way that social distancing and mask wearing have become leading defenses in mitigating the spread.
"I don't think any of us are pretending that this app alone is going to eradicate COVID. However it is such an easy thing to do and it's going to help," she noted.
For the U.S. to get past the virus and resume some form of normal life, it likely will have to be a societal effort, not something the government will be able correct on its own.
"I think what we've seen from the White House, which is abundantly clear, is no one is coming to save us but ourselves, so this is one tool, among many, to do that," she said.