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COVID-19 app that warns of Hawaii exposure now available for older iPhones

The AlohaSafe Alert, the free state-approved COVID-19 exposure notification system, is now available to those with older iPhones or software.

The app, which the state officially rolled out at the start of this year, is downloadable for free from Apple or Google Play, and is designed to alert users if they have been exposed to the new coronavirus using Bluetooth technology. It was launched by the Hawaii Department of Health in partnership with aio Digital and the Hawaii Executive Collaborative, and is the state’s official COVID-19 exposure notification app.

Previously, the app was only compatible with iPhones with iOS 13.7 or greater or Androids Version 6 or above.

Now, the state has rolled out AlohaSafe Exposure Notification Express — or EN Express — a new, app-less exposure notification app that enables older iPhones, such as iPhone 6.0 and below, and those running iOS version 12.5 and below, to be part of the state’s contact tracing network. EN Express, however, is only available on iPhones.

With EN Express, iPhone users can go to settings, and enable exposure notifications without having to download the app.

Android users, however, will still need to download the Aloha Safe Alert app.

As of Monday, there were more than 250,000 activations of both the app and EN Express. The availability of the latter option appeared to have boosted the number of people using the service.

When the AlohaSafe Alert app was initially launched after a pilot run on Lanai, it was intended to supplement, not replace, contact tracing efforts by the state Health Department. More than 20 states have some version of the exposure notification app as part of a nationwide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 by anonymously alerting people if they have potentially been exposed, allowing them to self-quarantine, get tested and seek medical advice sooner rather than later.

To promote the app, community partners such as professional surf photographer Zak Noyle and musicians Anuhea, J Boog, Fia, and The Green, have asked their followers to download the app to make Hawaii safer for everyone. Companies like Domino’s Pizza also encouraged downloads through a “We Love Pizza and U” social media campaign.

The initial goal was to get at least 150,000 downloads, or 15% of Hawaii’s approximately 1 million smartphone owners, in order to decrease COVID-19 hospitals and deaths. A study has shown that this number can decrease COVID-19 infections by 8% and deaths by 6%. That goal has since been surpassed.

HOW IT WORKS

After the app is downloaded, the smartphone uses Bluetooth technology to anonymously communicate with other phones that have a Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) application. Devices with the app will automatically “ping” each other, measuring the strength of the Bluetooth signal and the duration of interaction.

Once the Department of Health confirms a person has become infected with COVID-19, the person with the app will be sent a verification code to anonymously notify others of possible exposure within 48 hours.

Those with EN Express will automatically receive a notification on their phone.

The notification will be triggered if phones were in proximity to one another in the past 14 days, at a distance of 6 feet or less for at least 15 minutes. Privacy is protected, according to officials. Recipients of the notifications will not know who exposed them, or where they were exposed.

Download the free app via Google Play or Apple’s App Store. Visit alohasafealert.org for more information.

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