AlohaSafe Alert, the state of Hawaii’s official COVID-19 exposure notification app, is now available to Hawaii County residents and is expected to launch statewide next week.
Developed in partnership with the state Department of Health, the aio Foundation and the Hawaii Executive Collaborative, the free app aims to slow the spread of COVID-19 by using smartphones to notify users of their exposure to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Brandon Kurisu, president of aio Digital, said Tuesday afternoon during a virtual meeting with members of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce that the company has been working on the initiative for a while. It will launch statewide Jan. 6.
According to alohasafealert.org, when the app senses another app in use nearby, the devices will exchange a secure, random, anonymous code. An individual’s location, name or other identifiable information is never included.
Users who test positive for COVID-19 will receive a text message on their phone that will allow them to alert other users they were exposed.
A notification will only be triggered if a minimum exposure threshold is met: Devices must have been a distance of 6 feet or less for at least 15 cumulative minutes in the past 14 days.
“For me, the big takeaway is this is one other way that we can start protecting our island against the coronavirus and keep all of us safe,” said Mayor Mitch Roth during the meeting. “They’re looking at doing a statewide release next week, but we wanted to get a jump start and start getting people signed up and logged in. … To me, it was kind of a no-brainer. It’s just another way we can keep our island safe and healthy. Let’s do what we can.”
Roth acknowledged that not everyone will use that app, but said it’s an additional tool that will speed up the contact notification process.
Combined with other preventative measures, if just 15% of the community uses the app, the number of infections will decline by 8% and the number of deaths will be reduced by 6%, according to Roth.
Studies show that for every two people who opt to use the app, one infection can be avoided.
According to the county, there currently are 17 other states and 19 other countries using this technology to track exposure to the coronavirus.
The AlohaSafe app was first released on Lanai in November as part of a pilot program and launched for use in Maui County earlier this month.
Kurisu said he’s been “pleasantly surprised” by the response. There have been about 18,000 downloads so far, he said, “but we really haven’t done a big push yet.”
Residents are still expected to adhere to social distancing and other safety measures mandated by the state and county to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
App usage is voluntary. The app is available for free on Apple and Android devices.
For more information, visit alohasafealert.org.
Email Stephanie Salmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.