More than 1 million sign up for COVID-19 exposure app so far in Washington

More than 14% of Washington state’s population has signed up for WA Notify, the app designed to let people know if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — More than 1 million Washingtonians have enabled a coronavirus exposure app in the first four days of the technology going live statewide.

On Monday, the state joined more than a dozen states that have already enlisted the use of smartphone technology in the ongoing effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

People with iPhones can enable the ‘exposure notifications’ feature that is already in their phone’s settings, and Android devices can download the app, called WA Notify. Use of the app is voluntary and users can opt out at any time. The app does not collect or store any personal information or track location data.

Experts say even low levels of participation could help save lives.

A team of researchers from Oxford University and Google studied COVID exposure notifications in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties this year.

The researchers estimate that if 15% of the population participates in notifications, the region could see an 8% drop in infections and a 6% drop in deaths.

It appears the state is well on its way to meet that goal with more than 14% of the population already signed up for the app as of Friday.

Public health experts hope the alerts will lead to quicker testing.

The statewide rollout follows a monthlong pilot project run by the University of Washington.

“This is just another thing that can help us operate more quickly,” said Dr. Jen Balkus, a UW assistant professor of epidemiology. “But it still needs to be used in combination with many of the things that we’re doing quite well within Washington at the moment (such as) mask-wearing, social distancing and working remotely if you can.”

The technology, created by Apple and Google, is in use in more than 30 countries and more than a dozen states in the U.S. Washington was among five states with pilot programs already testing the technology.