HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s coronavirus exposure notification app can now be used by mobile phone users as young as 13 as health officials work to stop the virus’ spread in schools.
The app, named COVID AlertPa, had been limited to people 18 and over. State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says middle- and high-school students can add their phones to help contact tracing in schools if a positive case is identified.
A parent or legal guardian must approve the minor’s use of the app.
Some school districts continue to conduct in-person instruction, even though every county except one has passed new case thresholds where the state Department of Education recommended fully remote instruction.
Harrisburg, PA – Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine and Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega today announced that, with parental or guardian permission, Pennsylvanians age 13 to 17 can now add their phone to the fight and download the COVID Alert PA app to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“While the app has been available to Pennsylvanians 18 and older, we wanted to ensure more residents had access to these resources and can be notified if exposed to COVID-19,” Dr. Levine said. “By expanding the age range, we can hopefully increase the number of individuals who download the app, increasing its effectiveness to help control the spread of this dangerous virus, especially in school settings. I encourage everyone to download COVID Alert PA and answer the call to wash your hands, social distance, and wear a mask so we can unite together against COVID-19.”
“The Pennsylvania Department of Education is issuing a call to action to all youth in our commonwealth: We urge you to download the free COVID Alert PA app to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega. “Help keep yourself, your families, and your communities safe by utilizing your phone in the fight against the spread of this disease.”
COVID Alert PA is a free and voluntary mobile app developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health in partnership with NearForm, University of Pennsylvania and MIT Lincoln Laboratory using Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification System. The app’s features include an interactive COVID-19 symptom check-in, alerts for potential exposures to the virus, updates on the latest public health data about COVID-19 in PA and public health guidance for what to do if you have a potential exposure to COVID-19.
In this new update, the Department of Health will share further data resources on the app to provide the most up to date COVID-19 county case counts and hospitalizations. The update will also include an information hub, where residents learn more about contact tracing, app compatibility with other states, and where to find a testing location and other assistance and benefits.
We encourage you to download the app so if you test positive for COVID-19, you can then enter a unique six-digit code given to you by a case investigator. This will allow individuals you may have encountered in proximity and who have the app know that they have been exposed to COVID-19. They can then take important steps to protect themselves and others such as getting tested or quarantining. Most importantly, this will help cut the chain of COVID-19 transmission.
The app is also designed to ensure privacy of the user. It does not use GPS, location services or any movement or geographical information. It will never collect, transmit or store personal information. It is completely anonymous.
The app does collect user statistics such as the number of downloads or the symptom check-in demographics that people can voluntarily share. Since the launch on September 22, we know:
- There have been 622,000 downloads onto smartphone devices.
- There were 326 positive cases who confirmed their positivity through the app, which generated 144 close-contact exposure alerts.
- Of those who received an exposure alert, 21 requested a call-back to speak with a trained contact tracer for further support.
The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
- Clean surfaces frequently.
- Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
- If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.
- Download the COVID Alert PA app and make your phone part of the fight. The free app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store by searching for “covid alert pa”.
Updated Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Photos, Graphics
- Daily COVID-19 Report
- Press releases regarding coronavirus
- Latest information on the coronavirus
- Photos of the state’s lab in Exton (for download and use)
- Coronavirus and preparedness graphics (located at the bottom of the page)
- Community preparedness and procedures materials
All Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to sign up for AlertPA, a text notification system for health, weather, and other important alerts like COVID-19 updates from commonwealth agencies. Residents can sign up online at www.ready.pa.gov/BeInformed/Signup-For-Alerts.
Audio, video, and photos of this event are available on the PAcast website.