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VIDEO: AlohaSafe Alert app helps in the fight against COVID-19

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                                Lynelle Marble and Brandon Kurisu of AlohaSafe Alert app.
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Lynelle Marble and Brandon Kurisu of AlohaSafe Alert app.

                                Lynelle Marble and Brandon Kurisu of AlohaSafe Alert app.

Mask wearing and social distancing are key to slowing the spread of COVID-19, but there is another tool to fight the virus that is free, effective, and available right now: the AlohaSafe Alert app.

“Devices that have the app are anonymously communicating with other devices in the vicinity using low energy bluetooth,” Brandon Kurisu, President of aio Digital and founder of Aloha Safe Alert, explained this morning on Spotlight Hawaii.

Kurisu helped to develop the app in partnership with the Hawaii State Department of Health. If someone has been in contact within six feet or less, for 15 minutes or more, of another person who later tests positive for COVID-19, the app will send an alert, warning of a potential coronavirus exposure, along with information on what to do next.

“That way they can self-quarantine, get tested, or consult with their physician,” Kurisu said.

Roughly 50,000 people in Hawaii have downloaded the app since it launched last month. The hope is that 150,000 people, or roughly 15% of people who have smartphones in the state, will download it.

“It’s only as good as people (who) download it,” said Lynelle Marble, executive director of the Hawaii Executive Collaborative, which helped launch the app.

“Studies show from Google and Oxford, they did early studies, and what it showed is that if just 15% of the population downloads the app, it could decrease infections by 8% and deaths by 6%,” she said.

Those same studies show that for every two people that opt-in to use the app, a COVID-19 infection can be avoided. Starting this week, Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino mandated that all travelers entering the county have the app downloaded to their phone, or be traveling with someone who does. More than 20 states and a number of other countries are using the same exposure notification technology.

Kurisu assures those with privacy or security concerns that the app does not use GPS or any location tracking, and is anonymous.

“The application does not know where you are, it doesn’t track anything. Everything is very anonymous and secure,” Kurisu said.

And if a user is alerted, Marble adds, the information they receive does not reveal the source of their potential infection.

“It does not identify person. So you just simply get an alert on your phone, much like a notification from a news station or a weather alert that says you have been, or you may have been exposed to COVID-19,” she said.

And that information can save lives. The AlohaSafe Alert app is available in the app store for iPhone or Android devices. To learn more visit alohasafealert.org.

Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.

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