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January 2021

Free app helps Washingtonians stop the spread of COVID-19

January 6, 2021

During the first 100 hours after WA Notify launched, more than 1 million users had downloaded the simple, anonymous exposure notification tool on their smartphones. The free app, designed to help stop the spread of COVID-19, is available for iPhones and Android phones, and is offered in 29 languages.

By the end of December nearly 1.61 million uses had activated WA Notify. More Washington residents opted in within the first 24 hours of the app's availability than any other state using the technology, according to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).

"Opting into exposure notification is something almost every Washington resident with a smartphone can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19, so we are gratified to see so many people adopting it quickly," said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. "If you haven't activated WA Notify yet, please consider doing so. Studies from Oxford University and Stanford show that the more people who use a tool like WA Notify, the more effectively it will protect our communities."

Users who voluntarily activate the Washington Exposure Notifications tool (WA Notify) will be alerted if they spent time near another user who later tests positive for the coronavirus. Privacy preserving technology jointly developed by Google and Apple is used on WA Notify.

Phones with WA Notify use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to exchange random codes with the phones of other users they are near. Anyone who also has WA Notify and has been near the user who tested positive for a significant length of time in the previous 14 days will receive an anonymous alert that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. Notifications have a link to information about what to do next to protect yourself and others.

No location or personal data are collected or revealed as part of the WA Notify tool. The system never collects or shares location data or personal information with Google, Apple, the state Department of Health, or other users. (For more details, see the WA Exposure Notifications privacy policy.) Users can opt in or out at any time.

DOH has prepared various materials to explain how WA notify works, how a user's privacy is protected, how the tool helps, and answers to frequently asked questions. DOH also publishes a blog, Public Health Connection.

Both 30-second and 2-minute videos are also available for viewing in English or Spanish:

Washington implemented its Exposure Notification system following reviews by a state oversight group that included security and civil liberties experts plus representatives from several communities. The group recommended adoption based on the platform's proven reliability, robust data protection, and use by other states.

Since May, when the exposure notification technology became available, public health authorities have launched systems in more than 50 countries, states, and regions. The tool was built on feedback from more than 100 technical briefings with state public health officers, state epidemiologists, and where appropriate, their app developers.