You’ve been notified: State launches option in mobile devices to see if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19

The UT Exposure Notifications app is seen atop a homemade cloth mask. Feb. 19, 2021 in St. George, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — With all the notifications coming into people’s mobile devices, many Southern Utahns received an intriguing new one starting Wednesday: Have you been exposed to COVID-19?

Stock image. | Photo by Miljan Živković/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

On Wednesday, the Utah Department of Health launched a joint effort with Google and Apple to activate a voluntary alert on cell phones to notify a person that they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Many people got push notifications on their mobile phones this week informing them of this new option.

Navina Forsythe, director of the Utah Department of Health Center for Health Data and Informatics, said the goal is to help both the public and the state’s health department better track exposures to the virus. Contact tracing aids in nailing down the location of outbreaks and limits their reach.

“Contact tracing is an important part of how public health responds and stops disease outbreaks. People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are more at risk of getting infected and making others sick,” Forsythe said.

This isn’t the first effort by the state to use mobile devices for contact tracing.

Screenshot shows a notification sent to Apple devices this week about the option to activate COVID-19t exposure notifications. Feb. 18, 2021 | Screenshot, St. George News

Back in April, the state introduced the Healthy Together app that was designed to both help people determine if they needed to be tested for COVID-19 and to track if they were exposed to others with the virus. However, while tens of thousands of Utahns downloaded the app, few opted to include the app’s GPS tracking feature. While the Healthy Together app is still active and available to help set up testing and aid in self-diagnosis, its GPS and contact tracing feature was ultimately disabled in July for lack of use.

The new notification services are purely for contact tracing and also easier to use. In the case of Apple devices, it is built-in as part of a recent operating system update.

On Apple devices, a user needs to click “settings,” select “exposure notifications,” select “turn on exposure notifications,” and then select United States, Utah and agree to terms of use.

Google Android devices require a download of the UT Exposure Notifications app from the Play Store and follow the on-screen instructions to activate.

The contact tracing still comes down to people voluntarily activating the option on their cell phones and voluntarily telling the system that they have tested positive for the virus.

Screenshot shows the UT Exposure Notifications app for Android devices. Feb. 19, 2021 | Screenshot, St. George News

According to Forsythe, unlike the Healthy Together app, the notification system does not use GPS or track the user’s location. Instead, Bluetooth technology is used to exchange encrypted and anonymous tokens between a person’s phone and the phones of those around them to keep an encrypted log of with whom they’ve been in contact.

As for what someone needs to do if they are informed of exposure to the virus, the availability of testing is much more prevalent now than it was earlier in the pandemic. Also, most testing now involves either spitting into a vial or a quick swab of the nose, as opposed to the long stick up the nostril type of testing earlier in the pandemic. That includes rapid testing sites, in St. George and LaVerkin, where results are sent to mobile devices in some 30 minutes after the test.

Testing locations throughout Southern Utah are available at this link.

Health experts still suggest for an accurate result, it’s best to wait five days after exposure before getting tested and to take measures to quarantine one’s self until then. That is, except for those who have received their second vaccine dose seven or more days ago, who the Centers for Disease Control now say do not need to take any additional measures after exposure.

More information on the Utah exposure notification system is available at this link.

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

Check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Feb. 19, 2020, seven-day average in parentheses)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 26,203 (56.6 new infections per day in seven days, falling since Feb. 18)

  • Washington County: 19,756 (37 per day, falling)
  • Iron County: 4,856 (13.6 per day, rising)
  • Kane County: 485 (3.7 per day, falling)
  • Garfield County: 405 (0.4 per day, rising)
  • Beaver County: 627 (1.9 per day, falling)

New infections for major Southern Utah cities (numbers released ahead of Southern Utah numbers):

  • St. George: 32 (rising)
  • Washington City: 5 (falling)
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 1 (falling)
  • Ivins City/Santa Clara: 4 (falling)
  • Cedar City: 26 (rising)

Deaths: 221 (1.1 per day, rising)

  • Note: Deaths reported today include those that took place before Feb. 1
  • Washington County: 176 (3 new since last report: Male 64-84 at home, long-term care female over 85, long-term care male 65-84)
  • Iron County: 29 (1 new: Long-term care male over 85.)
  • Garfield County: 9 
  • Kane County: 3
  • Beaver County: 4

Hospitalized: 19 (falling)

Active cases: 1,681 (rising)

Current Utah seven-day average: 803 (falling)

Vaccines shipped to  Southern Utah: 41,250

Number of initial vaccine injections in Southern Utah: 29,318 

Number of fully vaccinated in Southern Utah: 13,174

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Those who can currently get first dose of the vaccine: Everyone ages 65 and over; K-12 teachers and staff; those that work in nonhospital health care facilities (those in clinics, pharmacies, dentists or other medical offices); and first responders, including law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs.
  • Those who can receive the second dose: Those who received their first injection 28 days or more before the appointment time.
  • Those who can get first dose of the vaccine as of March 1: Those with the following health conditions – Transplant recipients, having had certain cancers, immunocompromised state including HIV, severe kidney disease, uncontrolled diabetes, obese with a body mass index greater than 40, hepatitis, chronic heart disease, but not high blood pressure, lung disease besides asthma, downs syndrome or cerebral palsy, those who have had strokes or dementia, sickle-cell anemia.
  • Must register in advance online for an appointment time.
  • Must have a personal ID, employment ID (if necessary) and wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment.
  • Proof of residency is required. Part-time residents can get vaccinated with proof of residency.
  • Vaccines are free of charge.
  • Those without email addresses or unable to make reservations online can get help at a specialized hotline at 435-986-2549.

Washington County:

Where: St. George Active Life Center, 245 N. 200 West, St George

Reservations: Click to register 

Iron County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Cedar City office, 260 DL Sargent Drive, Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register 

Kane County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Kanab office, 445 N. Main St., Kanab.

Reservations: Click to register 

Garfield County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Panguitch office, 601 Center St. Panguitch.

Reservations: Click to register

Beaver County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Beaver Office,  75 1175 North, Beaver.

Reservations: Click to register

Smith’s Food and Drug:

Where: 20 N. Bluff St. and 565 S. Mall Drive in St. George and 633 S. Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 625 W. Telegraph St. in Washington City and 1330 S. Providence Center Dr. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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