ALBANY — The NY COVID Alert app unveiled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo earlier this month, which the governor touted as a technological recreation changer for contact tracing, has been downloaded greater than 640,000 occasions — however the governor’s workplace and the Division of Well being have declined to show over extra detailed mixture knowledge that might measure the app’s influence.

That extra knowledge, which is a matter of public file, would reveal how efficient the cellular app has been in monitoring the unfold of COVID-19 throughout the state, together with alerting individuals who could have are available shut contact with an contaminated individual.

Comparable variations of the identical app have additionally been rolled out in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. In response to figures offered by the states, the app has been downloaded greater than 50,000 occasions in Delaware , greater than 220,000 occasions in New Jersey and greater than 330,000 occasions in Pennsylvania.

“To this point, over 630,000 New Yorkers have downloaded the COVID Alert NY app. We encourage all New Yorkers 18+ to obtain the app and we proceed to conduct outreach to communities throughout the state to extend app utilization,” Gary Holmes, a spokesman for the New York Division of Well being, mentioned in an e-mail. “To guard consumer privateness and safety, the New York state Division of Well being is not going to be disclosing details about particular person notifications or exposures.”

Two days after the app was launched, Cuomo’s Secretary Melissa DeRosa tweeted that the app had been downloaded “over 305,400 occasions.” Within the ensuing 18 days, the app was downloaded by roughly a further 325,000 folks. It is unclear what number of of these people could have deleted or not activated the app.

Of the 4 state’s contacted concerning the app, New York was the one one which flatly declined to supply extra detailed solutions on the utilization statistics. Pennsylvania and Deleware promptly offered the identical figures that New York refused, and New Jersey advised the Occasions Union it is within the technique of growing a dashboard to share that data with the general public.

There aren’t any legal guidelines prohibiting New York from disclosing what number of exposures or particular person notifications have been documented by the app. The state’s personal internet web page for the app acknowledges that not one of the knowledge requested by the Occasions Union accommodates any private, identifiable details about customers of the app. That additionally calls into query the assertion by Cuomo’s administration that disclosure of the combination knowledge would violate particular person “consumer privateness and safety,” until the app is recording that data.

The privateness coverage for the app that is detailed on the state’s Division of Well being web site says that it tracks extra detailed data together with energetic customers, the quantity who’ve uploaded constructive check outcomes and the quantity who’ve been alerted of shut contact with contaminated people. The governor’s workplace and well being division officers declined to supply these figures, which might assist measure the productiveness of the app that Cuomo’s workplace had mentioned price about $700,000 to develop, with financing partly from Bloomberg Philanthropies basis and federal funds.

The Cuomo administration’s unwillingness to share the general public knowledge is a part of a sample by the governor’s workplace on releasing knowledge in the course of the ongoing public well being disaster. The governor’s administration has refused to speak in confidence to the variety of nursing house sufferers who have been contaminated with COVID-19 and transferred to a hospital earlier than dying, as an alternative counting solely those that died inside nursing amenities as nursing house fatalities, regardless of calls for for that data from elected officers, together with a state legislative panel, and out of doors advocacy teams.

The administration additionally has declined to offered figures on the quantity of non-public protecting tools and medical provides, together with ventilators, that have been in its stockpiles on the top of the pandemic. Cuomo’s administration spent tons of of thousands and thousands of {dollars} on medical tools and provides that went unused at a time he had repeatedly claimed that New York may face shortages and front-line employees have been working low on masks and different protecting supplies.

In Pennsylvania, with its 330,000 downloads, 107 have uploaded constructive check outcomes via the app — triggering notifications to 22 people who have been in sustained shut contact to these folks — three of whom requested calls from the Division of Well being for recommendation, spokeswoman Maggi Mumma emailed the Occasions Union.

“We’re proud that Pennsylvanians are discovering this device to function a useful resource to struggle the unfold of COVID-19,” Mumma wrote. “We emphasize that the extra people who obtain the app, the extra profitable it is going to be when notifying of exposures from COVID-19 constructive people.”


Delaware Public Well being Division communications director Jill Fredel mentioned over 50,000 residents have downloaded the COVID-19 alert app, which launched Sept. 15.
 
Of those that have the app downloaded, 9 p.c have examined constructive for the virus, Fredel mentioned. Of these folks, 78 p.c acquired and submitted a code to inform others who have been in shut contact with them of doable publicity, Fredel mentioned, and about 16 p.c of these shut contacts already had the app downloaded.

COVID Alert NY was developed in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Google, Apple and different know-how firms, and it is obtainable for iPhone and Android. It makes use of the Bluetooth service on a cellular machine to trace when the individual is available in shut proximity — six ft — with others who even have the app. If an individual checks constructive and uploads their constructive consequence via the app, it alerts others who’ve the app and have been in shut proximity of the contaminated individual for not less than 10 minutes.

State officers mentioned the app doesn’t monitor particular geographic location and that customers should not personally identifiable from the data offered to the well being division. These below the age of 18 should not allowed to enroll in the app with out clicking that it was licensed by a father or mother or guardian, a call Holmes mentioned was made on coverage grounds fairly than as a result of any regulation prohibits kids from downloading it.

“It’s utilizing know-how actually on a degree it’s by no means been used earlier than,” Cuomo mentioned on Oct. 1 when the app was introduced in New York. “I feel it’s going to present, not solely deliver contact tracing to a brand new degree, but it surely’s going to present folks consolation.”

However based mostly on the extent of utilization to date, it is unclear whether or not the app is making a measurable influence on contact tracing.

“You recognize, nervousness may be very excessive. All people’s questioning. I used to be subsequent to this individual … however this will really offer you some knowledge and info will help scale back nervousness and that could be a good factor,” Cuomo had mentioned. “Generally info can improve nervousness however that’s extra in my place in life.”

The completely different variations of the app work in live performance, which means if somebody travels from New York via Pennsylvania, they may nonetheless be alerted if they’ve been uncovered to COVID-19 or uncovered others. That could be notably useful over Thanksgiving and the winter holidays as journey will increase, mentioned Delaware Public Well being Division communications Director Jill Fredel.

“We hold discovering new avenues to get the phrase on the market. As states enter the second or third wave – no matter wave that is or some states are clearly nearly in — the immediacy will grow to be extra pronounced,” Fredel mentioned.

She mentioned the app helps fill within the gaps of an individual’s reminiscence. When doing contact tracing, individuals who check constructive should recall the place they’ve been and who they might have had shut contact with, but when extra folks use the app it takes away the guess work, Fredel mentioned.

“It’s actually essential to have the ability to flip that round so rapidly and never must rely on folks’s recollections,” she mentioned.

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