When a COVID-19 outbreak cluster occurs, contact tracing is essential to slowing the spread. Contact tracing can be used to warn people about an exposure that they wouldn’t have known about otherwise — which gives them a chance to quarantine and protect others.
So far, contact tracing has been used to determine the source of local outbreaks and superspreader events. It’s also become a viable job option for people looking for work. Tap or click here to see how you can become a contact tracer.
Out of all the contact tracing methods being used, digital contact tracing seems to hold the most promise. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been widely adopted yet in the U.S. But all that might be changing soon thanks to the efforts of several state health departments, which have developed contact tracing apps you can download on your phone. Here’s the list of states participating.
Which states have contact tracing apps available?
Lack of widespread adoption of contact tracing software is the biggest roadblock facing digital efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of late-November, only a handful of U.S. states had contact tracing options for iOS and Android — although more may be on the way in the coming months.
These apps make use of Apple and Google’s joint contact tracing API, which creates exposure notifications for at-risk users. The apps can then feed exposure data to state health officials, which can help them address problem areas of their state more efficiently. Tap or click here to see how Apple and Google’s contact tracing software works.
If you’re eager to stay in the know about your COVID-19 risk factors, the chart below will tell you which of the 50 U.S. states have apps available, as well as when we can expect apps for other states soon:
|State||Contact tracing app available||Contact tracing app expected?||Available for iPhone||Available for Android|
|Alabama||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|Arizona||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|California||Yes||Enabled in iOS settings||Enabled in Android settings|
|Colorado||Yes||Enabled in iOS settings||Download for Android|
|Connecticut||Yes||Enabled in iOS settings||Download for Android|
|Delaware||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|Maryland||Yes||Enabled in iOS settings||Download for Android|
|Michigan||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|Minnesota||Yes||Enabled in iOS settings||Download for Android|
|Nevada||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|New Jersey||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|New York||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|North Carolina||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|North Dakota||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|Oregon||No||In development, release TBA|
|Pennsylvania||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|South Carolina||No||Will participate, release TBA|
|Virginia||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|Washington||Yes||Enabled in iOS settings||Download for Android|
|Wyoming||Yes||Download for iOS||Download for Android|
|Washington, D.C.||Yes||Enabled in iOS settings||Download for Android|
To participate, you’ll need to enable exposure alerts for your respective operating system. Here’s how to do it:
- Open Settings
- Tap Exposure Notifications.
- Tap Turn on Exposure Notifications
- Select your state. If your state is not participating, you’ll get an alert saying it hasn’t been enabled for your region.
- Open Settings
- Tap Google and look for COVID-19 Exposure Notifications.
- Tap to enable Exposure Notifications.
Some states will not require an app download on iOS or Android to use exposure notifications. Selecting your state in the steps above will activate the feature.
You agree to let state health officials access your location and health data right from your device by opting in. While this is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, not everyone is comfortable sharing so much private data. If you’d prefer not to, you might not want to install this software. Tap or click here to see the privacy risks behind contact tracing apps.
Bonus: Cross-state compatibility
Most state health officials use their own separate servers for contact tracing data. In these states, exposure notification apps will stop working once you cross state lines.
On the other hand, states participating in the Association of Public Health Laboratories’ key server program pool their resources together for a wider span of notification alerts. If you have an app from any of the states on the list below, you can still receive exposure notifications if you visit any others on the list:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
We’ve still got a long way to go before contact tracing apps are the norm nationwide. Whether or not they’re successful in slowing the spread depends on how eager we are to install them.
Will you be downloading a contact tracing app? We’ll be updating this story regularly as more states participate.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.