Good Question: Why did I get a COVID exposure notification message?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A lot of people over the past couple of days got messages sent to their phones saying push notifications for COVID exposure warnings are available.

Usually, when something random like this pops up you’re told to ignore the message because it might be a scam. This one is not. It’s legit.

The notifications aren’t telling you that you’ve been in close contact with someone with the virus. They are just reminding you there’s another easy way to find out if you have.

It works with COVID Alert New York. The state launched that app in the fall. There was a lot of talkback then, encouraging people to sign up, then it faded from the headlines.

Why are the messages going out now?

NYS Department of Health spokesperson Jonah Bruno told News10NBC’s Brennan Somers:

“Contact tracing remains critical to New York’s nation-leading response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the COVID AlertNY app and exposure notifications on iPhones are important tools that allow New Yorkers to enhance those statewide contact tracing efforts. Well over a million New Yorkers have downloaded the app to date, and exposure notifications recently launched on iPhones will help us enlist even more people.”

Here’s the other thing if you get this message– you can opt-in for the new notification feature on iPhones without having to actually get the app.

Back in December, Somers found out more than 1,000 people with COVID marked their status in the system to warn others they’ve been around. That was just a small fraction of the NY’s total cases but state officials say every bit helps.

This week, Somers also asked for an updated tally on users to date. We didn’t get an exact figure this time. Instead, we were was just told thousands have marked a COVID positive status in the app triggering exposure notification for thousands of others.

Here’s how it works if you haven’t used it. It runs with what’s called exposure notification system technology. Using Bluetooth– you’ll get an alert if you’ve come within six feet, for at least ten minutes, with someone who’s tested positive.

State officials stress it is anonymous, doesn’t track your location, and they don’t collect any personal information.

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