The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced today that the COVIDWISE Exposure Notifications App will be retired when the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) disables the National Key Server as the National Public Health Emergency comes to a close on May 11.
More than 3 million users downloaded the COVIDWISE app and/or turned on COVIDWISE Express, an app-less version exclusively for iPhone users. COVIDWISE has alerted thousands of users if they have been in close contact with an individual who anonymously reported a positive COVID-19 test result. The app and COVIDWISE Express has used Bluetooth technology to quickly notify users likely exposed to COVID-19 with the goal of reducing the risk of infection and stopping disease transmission.
“COVIDWISE brought us cutting-edge technology as we responded to one of the biggest public health threats in modern times,” said State Health Commissioner Karen Shelton, M.D. “With this technology, public health agencies put information directly into the hands of citizens, providing them with a tool and information to protect themselves and others around them.”
The free COVIDWISE app, which launched in early August 2020, was the first exposure notifications app in the United States using the Google/Apple framework. No personal data has ever been collected, stored, tracked or transmitted to VDH as part of the app or Express version.
“We stated from day one that when COVIDWISE was no longer needed, VDH would take the app down,” says Jeff Stover, VDH Chief of Staff. “We are following through on that commitment to the public.”
COVIDWISE works across state boundaries, including Washington D.C. and more than 20 states that have similar exposure notification systems using the National Key Server. This has allowed users to receive exposure notifications from people in participating states or jurisdictions.
The app has been updated several times and has included options to help users find and schedule vaccine appointments and access other valuable vaccination-related information, including the user’s COVID-19 vaccine record.
When the app is disabled on May 11, users may simply delete it from their phones. COVIDWISE Express users can turn off exposure notifications in Settings. Regardless, the Bluetooth technology that enables COVIDWISE to operate will no longer work for the app or COVIDWISE Express. The retirement of COVIDWISE does not impact COVID-19 surveillance activities, which will continue as part of VDH’s ongoing COVID response.