WASHINGTON, DC — Residents of the District or people who spend a lot of time there can now receive push notifications on their smartphones alerting them if they have been exposed to COVID-19, the illness associated with the new coronavirus.

The D.C. government activated the DC COVID Alert Notice (DC CAN) system on Tuesday, which will allow District residents or frequent visitors to receive COVID-19 exposure information on their mobile devices.

“We are encouraging all District residents, and those who spend time in the District, to opt into DC CAN,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser, in a release. “Using the DC CAN system is a quick and easy way to know if you might have been exposed to COVID-19. Opting in is one more way you can protect yourself, your friends and family, and our entire community.”

Bowser invited iPhone or Android users in the District to activate the DC CAN app. Android users can download the app from the Google Play Store. IOS users don’t have to download the app. Instead, they just need to opt into the exposure notifications through settings.

“This technology was created for the sole purpose of helping us stop the spread of COVID-19. Knowing your exposure history allows you to self-quarantine quickly, seek medical attention, and reduce the potential of exposing others,” said Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, director of D.C. Health, in the release. “DC CAN is another tool helping our contact tracing efforts in the District. The Exposure Notifications System will be disabled once the pandemic reaches a point that no longer necessitates the use of this technology.”

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Once a user opts into the notification system, it will generate a random ID for the device. IDs are updated every 10-20 minutes to ensure the privacy of the user. As the user walks around and comes into contact with others who have activated DC CAN on their phones, the notification system will keep track of the relative proximities of the phones. If one of the users tests positive for COVID-19, an alert will be sent out to all of the devices that had come into close proximity with the patient’s phone. Those users may be at risk for being exposed to the disease.

In terms of COVID-19, close proximity is considered being within six feet of the infected person’s device for at least 15 minutes.

The notification system does not track the users’ location, according to the release. Other users, such as Google or Apple, will not be able to access the information to determine the user’s identity. The information will only be used for public health purposes and won’t be shared with other agencies, such as law enforcement or immigration.

D.C. Health confirmed 53 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. That’s up slightly from the 50 cases reported on Tuesday. This brings the District’s total number of positive cases to date to 16,498.

D.C. Health reported no new deaths due to COVID-19 on Wednesday. The total number of deaths in the District stands at 642.

According to D.C. Health, 476,443 coronavirus tests have been administered in the District, 244,181 residents have been tested, and 12,938 have been cleared from isolation.

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The District currently has 69 intensive care unit beds available out of 345 total intensive care unit beds. There are currently 166 in-use ventilators out of a total of 440 available. Also, there are 23 COVID-19-positive ICU patients.

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Globally, more than 40.8 million people have been infected by COVID-19, and over 1.1 million people have died, Johns Hopkins University reported Wednesday morning. In the United States, more than 8.2 million people have been infected and over 221,000 people have died from COVID-19.

District residents should take the following actions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used if soap and water are not available.

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.


This article originally appeared on the Washington DC Patch



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