iPhone and COVID-19

Apple and Google collaborated in the spring of 2020 (long, long ago) to create a “passive” COVID-19 exposure system, which was released on May 20. It is “passive” in that, once it is turned on, you really don’t have to do anything for it to work. But – you do have to turn it on.

It also requires— because this is the United States and instead of one government, we have over 50 — that a given state set up the necessary infrastructure to handle the tracking. The tracking is entirely anonymous, and the only person who gets notified of your exposure is — you.

You can read more about Apple and Google’s work on this innovative system in Wikipedia’s article on Exposure Notification.

Requirements:

  • You need an iPhone
  • It needs to have a current version of iOS
  • You need to turn on Exposure Notifications (go to your iPhone Settings > Exposure Notifications)

Exposure Notification

There are just a few settings, essentially telling your phone to accept notifications, and to verify that you are in Washington State (or wherever you happen to be).

Settings under Exposure Notification

Virginia was the first state to support Exposure Notifications. Since then, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, the District of Columbia — and Washington State — have added support.

How it works: your phone will use near-field communications (NFC), a very low-power radio signal, to take note of other phones that you come near. If at some future date the owner of one of those other phones reports a COVID-19 exposure, the Exposure Notification system will alert you. All of this is done anonymously, and voluntarily. Obviously, in order for the technology to work, literally millions of people need to turn on the notifications, and then also share that they’ve had a COVID-19 diagnosis, if they do get a positive test.

You can read about Washington’s program, called WA Notify, on the Washington State Department of Health website.



Addendum: WA Notify was announced on Monday, November 30. Within 24 hours, more Washington State residents had opted in to the notification system than any other state. By Friday, December 4, more than a million residents were using the system.

Ideally, notifications should be activated on at least 70% of all mobile phones in the state — Android and iPhone — for peak effectiveness. Ask your friends, neighbors, relatives, coworkers, and others to participate. When it comes to the pandemic, the entire planet is in this together.

Working from home temporarily

Jay Inslee, Governor of the State of Washington, today issued an emergency proclamation mandating an immediate two-week shutdown of all bars, restaurants, entertainment and recreation facilities. Many businesses that have not shut down have told employees to work from home.

But what is involved in “working from home?” Take Control Books has an answer: today they issued a new book, Take Control of Working from Home Temporarily, by Glenn Fleishman. Best of all, it is free.

Even if you are retired, or a student, you should find this book of value. There are tips on the care and feeding of your computer, furniture you should use, the merits of an external monitor (if you have a laptop), and many other nice tips.

You might want to check out their other books, too. They are not free, but you can download them electronically; no need to leave home.