Watch Now: Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to unveil new technology in COVID-19 fight

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WKBT) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz joined Minnesota IT Services (MNIT) Commissioner Tarek Tomes and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann for a 12:30 p.m. press event Monday to unveil a new technology available to Minnesotans to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Walz announced the launch of CovidawareMN, an app to help track contacts with the COVID-19 virus. The voluntary, anonymous application will alert a user if another user with whom they have had close contact during the virus’ infectious period tests positive for COVID-19.

“As we see a dangerous surge in cases across the state, we need to use every tool possible to cut off the spread of the virus,” said Walz. “COVIDaware MN gives our state a powerful and anonymous new tool to alert others we’ve had close contact with – even people we don’t know – and slow the spread of COVID-19.”

When Minnesotans download the app and allow notifications, COVIDaware MN generates a random, privacy-protecting key for a user’s phone. The app does not track individuals’ locations or their positions relative to one another. Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, the user’s phone and the phones of other users they are near anonymously exchange these privacy-protected keys. If a person receives a positive test, the Department of Health will provide a unique code the person may enter into the app, if they choose.

If they enter the code, users with whom they’ve been within six feet for 15 or more minutes over a 24 hour period in the past 14 days will receive a notification of an exposure. COVIDaware MN will exchange random keys with anyone who downloads COVIDaware MN or similar applications developed by other states that use the same technology framework.

“This innovative technology protects the privacy of Minnesotans and collects no data about a user,” said Tomes. “If Minnesotans opt in and follow health recommendations when notified of an exposure, we will slow the spread of COVID-19 and be one step closer to returning to many of the activities we miss so much.”

COVIDaware MN uses a COVID-19 exposure notification technology developed by Apple and Google. More than 20 states and territories have launched apps based on Google and Apple’s exposure notification technology, including Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming. More states are expected to adopt this technology as part of their COVID-19 response efforts.

The app is available in both the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

The app was built with open-source software from PathCheck Foundation, a nonprofit founded at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, dedicated to containing COVID-19, revitalizing the economy, and protecting individual privacy and liberty.