This Is the Easiest Way to Tell If You've Been Exposed to COVID

A device you likely already own has a built-in function to let you know ASAP.

These days, with COVID surging, it can seem like everywhere you go is a danger zone. While many people get infected from folks they know—a spouse, roommate, friend, child, or coworker, for example—plenty of others get the virus from spending time in public around people who they'll never cross paths with again. And with contact tracing failing in the U.S., it can seem impossible to notify potential contacts. But now, there's an easy way to tell if you've been exposed to COVID: a free contact tracing app on your smartphone that is rolling out across the U.S.

The technology, which was first announced in early September, currently has the ability to alert upwards of 100 million people across the country when they've been near anyone who has tested positive for the disease, The Washington Post reports. But until you activate yours, you could be missing out on these incredibly important updates. Read on for more on this powerful safety tool, and for an update on how likely you are to be exposed to the virus in your area, check out This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.

Read the original article on Best Life.

Your phone likely already has COVID exposure app.

A young woman using her smartphone while wearing a mask due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If you're the owner of an iPhone or Android phone and live in one of the 15 states or districts that has opted in to the system, most of the hard work has been done for you. On Sept. 1, Apple and Google announced that they would be launching a warning network for anyone exposed to coronavirus called "Exposure Notifications Express." The now-integrated service streamlines the contact tracing process and allows states' health departments to opt in to the technology instead of developing an app or program of their own, which can be clunky or not widely used enough to be effective. And for more news on the pandemic, check out Dr. Fauci Says This Is How Soon COVID Vaccinations Will Begin.

But it has to be turned on to work.

Close-up of an unrecognizable woman using smart phone

Of course, even though your phone likely already has the software it needs to keep you notified, it's not automatically activated. According to The Washington Post, the easiest way for Android users to get set up is to search for your state's app in the Google Play store. Once downloaded, it will direct you to the proper settings to turn the notifications. Only some iPhone users will also need a state-specific app, but you can instantly find out by clicking on "Settings," finding the "Exposure Notifications" option (beneath "Emergency SOS"), and completing setup from there. In most cases, you should be ready to go in minutes. And for more on factors that could be hinting you've got coronavirus, check out These 4 Easy-To-Miss Symptoms Could Mean You Have COVID, Experts Say.

Don't worry: Your data is safe.

identity theft

Contact tracing apps are far from new, but the way they operate can make a big difference. Instead of early apps that relied on stored location data, "Exposure Notifications Express" works anonymously, using Bluetooth to maintain a 14-day log of other phones you've come close to. This removes even the possibility of your personal information being compromised and keeps the health status of everyone involved completely confidential.

If you or someone you know tests positive, the system will alert anyone who had been within six feet of that person for 15 minutes or more (in most states) that they've been exposed, all while keeping the positive person anonymous. This useful information could help you know to get tested—or at the very least, self isolate and keep an eye out for symptoms—so that you don't pass the virus on to others. And for more up-to-date COVID information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The more people who use the COVID exposure app, the better.

woman with face mask looking at her phone on subway with man in a face mask behind her

The crux of the notification system is that for it to work, more people need to be taking part and have their Bluetooth beacons turn on. States such as Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Virginia have seen early modest success, but officials are optimistic that spreading awareness of the service could help them reach full potential.

"Virginia is pleased with the continued upward trend in downloads," spokesman Jeff Stover said at a press conference. "However, we desire to have the majority of the population with the app on their devices." And speaking of things that work better in big numbers, check out Dr. Fauci Says This Many People Need to Get Vaccinated to Stop COVID.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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