Virginia launches first US COVID-19-tracking app using Apple-Google API

Virginia's COVIDWISE contact-tracing app uses the Exposure Notifications API developed by Apple and Google.
Contact-tracing app is now live.
Photo: Virginia Department of Health

Virginia has launched its contact-tracing app using Apple and Google’s COVID-19-focused API, becoming the first state in the United States to do so.

The app, called COVIDWISE, uses Bluetooth Low Energy tech to notify users who have likely been exposed to individuals with coronavirus. This will, it is hoped, allow them to reduce the risk of infection by isolating from other people to help Virginia get on top of the spread of COVID-19.

The app is available to download from the App Store today. Once you have downloaded it and opted-in to the notification system, it will start generating anonymous tokens for your iPhone. These tokens, which cannot be used to identify people or track their location, are changed every 10-20 minutes.

Every day, the iPhone app will download a list of all the anonymous tokens associated with positive COVID-19 cases. It then checks them against a list of anonymous tokens your device has encountered in the last 14 days. In the event that there is a match, the app will update the user with public health authority information on “how to keep you and the people around you safe.”

COVID-tracking app in Virginia

Apple and Google announced they were teaming up to create a contact-tracing API back in early April. The API made its official debut in late April with iOS 13.5. However, that was far from the end of things. To use the API, states have to develop their own apps which use the Apple/Google tool.

Until now, none have done so. By launching its COVIDWISE app, Virginia is the first state to take advantage of the new technology to track coronavirus. While this is arguably past the first COVID peak, there’s still plenty more to be done to get coronavirus under control. If Virginia’s app works as hoped, hopefully other states will take note.