State launches pilot COVID-19 notification app

To combat the spread of COVID-19 across the state, contact tracing app is being tested on college campuses.

“To enhance the New Jersey contact tracing efforts we are enlisting technology. We have begun piloting an exposure-notification mobile app,” said Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

A pilot contact tracing app to combat the spread of COVID-19 across the state is being tested on college campuses.

“We also have been testing the app with three colleges Montclair State University, Passaic County Community College and Stoctkon University. The app communicates through Bluetooth on mobile devices. It will detect and log anonymous codes with devices with the app that are in close contact within 6 feet of a user for 10 minute or longer. You may not even know you were exposed but the app will tell you,” Persichilli said.

In total 130 people have piloted the apps, the program launched after health department officials found resistance to personal inquiries from contact tracers.

“The pilot will wrap up this week and we will examine all the feedbacks received and make necessary improvements before rolling it out statewide,” Persichilli continued.

The College of New Jersey, not part of this pilot program, is already finding success with a contact tracing app of its own, called ROAR.

“Once we are notified about someone who is not cleared, my team reaches out to them right away, within that day,” Rafia Saddiq said.

Saddiq is the Contact Tracing Coordinator at TCNJ. The mobile app which originally was used to notify students of events and news around campus, is now being used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 with a new “Self-check” feature.

“It alerts the campus community in completing a daily self-checkup and from that information, individual are either cleared or not cleared,” Saddiq said.

Siddiq works with a team of about 20 people to monitor and notify students and staff who may test positive for COVID-19.

“We also have QR code functioning throughout the app, so it serves as a check-in. So that if someone let’s say was feeling fine in the beginning of the day and then towards the end of the day they started feeling symptomatic or for some reason they got tested for COVID and it came out positive it alerts that individual that you were or are in close contact and to take any precautionary measures,” Saddiq said.

Any student or staff member can register for the app through their TCNJ account by using an edu email address. Siddiq says the app isn’t required but highly suggested for students, as it works on a scanning basis.

“The QR codes are placed throughout campus like in-front of offices and in-front of classrooms to be scanned. It has a camera function within the app so let’s say I’m a student and I am entering a classroom, the QR code is placed before entering the classroom so I scan it and later I find out if my classmates or professor tested positive, I get alerted. If I don’t scan into that location, I’m not notified,” Saddiq said.

So far approximately 1,000 students have downloaded the app.  Anyone visiting campus, can access the app and to fill out the daily-checkup.