The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has released two new tools to help reduce COVID-19 infections, deaths, and identify exposure risks, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The MI COVID Alert App is a free, anonymous app that alerts users if they have had a recent COVID-19 exposure. In addition to the MI COVID Alert App, the MDHHS launched CV19 CheckUp, a free, anonymous, online service that allows an individual to evaluate his or her personal COVID-19 risks.
In a partnership with MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB), the MI COVID Alert App was released statewide on November 9, 2020. The app is free, voluntary to use, and alerts users to recent COVID-19 exposures. Users can anonymously submit a positive COVID-19 test result as well, informing others nearby that they may have been exposed to the virus. When a person tests positive for COVID-19, the individual will receive a randomly generated PIN number from the local health department or State of Michigan, which the user can then enter into the app. If a user receives an exposure notification, this alerts the individual that he or she may have been within 6 feet for a minimum of 15 minutes of another individual with a positive test result. Notably, no information that can be used to personally identify or track a user’s location is required or shared; no names are necessary to use the app, and Bluetooth technology is used instead of GPS, to prevent location tracking. One month since its launch, the app has received 461,192 downloads. MDHHS claims the app has potential to decrease infections and mortality, even with only a 15% population use rate.
In addition to the app, on December 15, 2020, MDHHS launched the CV19 CheckUp tool. This free tool, available to all individuals in Michigan, offers users a personalized risk analysis for COVID-19. After completing an online questionnaire that takes into account an individual’s life situation and personal behavior, users are provided with a COVID-19 risk assessment as well as recommendations and connections to support services, if necessary. Although this tool is available for all Michigan residents, it is specifically created for older individuals, those 60 and over, who represent 24% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 89% of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Michigan. Like the MI COVID Alert App, the CV19 CheckUp tool is anonymous, and no name, email address, or other personal identifier is necessary to use and receive a personal risk and recommendation analysis. Rather than placing the burden on the individual to browse various websites and other COVID-19 related resources, the CV19 CheckUp tool uses data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as artificial intelligence, to analyze each person’s data, providing them with a risk level, an easy-to-understand evaluation of that risk, and steps that can be taken to minimize that risk.