The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) today announced the launch of MD COVID Alert, Maryland’s official COVID-19 Exposure Notifications Express system. MD COVID Alert uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to quickly notify users who might have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
“MD COVID Alert complements our traditional contact tracing efforts to notify users of possible exposure to help contain the virus,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “I encourage Marylanders to use MD COVID Alert to help protect the people around them, including those they might not know directly.”
MD COVID Alert was specifically designed to protect the privacy and personal information of users. Users remain anonymous, their location is never tracked, and no data is collected from their smartphones. Using Bluetooth technology, the system can detect if two devices are near each other without revealing where the devices are or who they belong to.
“Privacy is important. MD COVID Alert does not collect, transmit, or store personal information of users, and the system is completely anonymous,” said Dr. Katherine Feldman, MDH Contact Tracing Unit Director. “We’re asking Marylanders to add their smartphones to the fight against COVID-19 by using MD COVID Alert.”
According to a press release:
Starting today, Marylanders with an iPhone or Android smartphone will receive a push notification inviting them to receive exposure notification alerts. iPhone users will be able to opt in by enabling exposure notifications in their phone’s settings and selecting Maryland as their region.
Android users will be prompted to opt in by installing the MD COVID Alert app from the Google Play Store. MD COVID Alert is available at no cost and is voluntary. Users can disable exposure notifications at any time.
MD COVID Alert assigns users a random number, referred to as a random ID. To ensure these random IDs cannot be used to identify users or their whereabouts, they change every 10 to 20 minutes. User devices exchange the random IDs through Bluetooth Low Energy technology.
On a daily basis, a user’s phone downloads a list of all the random IDs associated with verified positive COVID-19 cases and checks them against the random IDs users have encountered in the two days prior to the positive test or symptom onset. If there is a match, the system will notify users of the date of exposure.
No other information about the exposure is shared. Users who receive an exposure notification alert are advised to get tested, monitor their health for symptoms, and quarantine. Some users may receive a call from a contact tracer if their information is shared by an individual with COVID-19.
MD COVID Alert is not a substitute for traditional contact tracing or for preventative public health measures that include wearing a mask, social distancing in public, frequent hand washing, and avoiding large crowds.