SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Village President Sheena Collum is encouraging the public to get the COVID Alert NJ app. 

The app was piloted in September with college students. It is now available for iOS and Android.

The state turned to technology to help fight the spread of COVID-19 as New Jersey’s corps of 1,800 or so contact tracers continue to meet with resistance.

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Collum said on Facebook that she herself just downloaded the app. “I probably didn't do it sooner because I felt iffy about privacy which is so bizarre because here I am posting on Facebook, right?”

In her Facebook post, she noted the following about the app:

1) It is safe and secure and anonymous!!!

2) The app uses Bluetooth technology to sense “close contacts” (people within 6 feet for 15 min or more in 24 hrs) and our phones, through this app, will basically share secure random codes.

3) If you test positive, a public health rep will contact you (as they already do) and ask if you will ANONYMOUSLY notify “close contacts” by giving you a 6-digit verification code to enter into your app (screen shot included).

4) People who were your close contacts (whether you know them or not) will get a notification without any identifying information on you or your location, none of that. It's safe and secure and anonymous.

So let's use an example. I have my phone on me (now with the app) and go to our Open Air Market this Thursday night (in the Sloan Street Lot from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., shop local plug). I then test positive on Saturday which would be awful. I would likely be able to remember the people I know personally as a part of contact tracing with our local health department but how in the world would I know the names of everyone else? Ah yes, THE APP and the exchange of secure random codes our phones did during the Bluetooth dance when you were in close proximity to me. Even if I don't know you, you will be notified you came in contact with someone who tested positive... but you won't know it was me or where it happened. You just know it's time to self-quarantine and get tested.

Contact tracing is one of the best ways our health experts are helping stop the spread. We've had 110 positive test cases in South Orange this month, our worst month. This second wave is a beast.

We can absolutely use technology to help keep each other safe but that means we need to download the app and enable “exposure notifications.” In context, let's round up and say 7 million adults in NJ, the app has only 425k users right now (ballpark folks). That's 6 percent and that's just not good enough. We're better than that.

I really don't know if this was convincing enough but in recognition of all the sacrifices everyone is making and in honor of all those we have already lost, take the 30 seconds to download the app.



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