By the end of September, Colorado residents will have the option to use an app that will notify them if they’ve been close to a person who tested positive for COVID-19.

Sarah Tuneberg, who heads the governor’s coronavirus innovation response team, said people who want to opt in can download the EN (Exposure Notification) Express app for Android smartphones. Apple users won’t need to download anything, since the app is packaged with an upcoming iPhone software update, though they will need to turn it on, she said.

A close-up image of an Apple smartphone.

When a phone has the app enabled, it will send “tokens” via Bluetooth to nearby smartphones that also have the app running, Tuneberg said. The app doesn’t track the phone’s location, and the tokens aren’t stored with any information that could identify individuals, she said.

If you enable the app and then test positive, local public health officials will give you a code that tells the app to notify anyone who was at risk of exposure, Tuneberg said. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment defines an at-risk contact as someone who was within six feet of an infected person for 10 minutes or longer.

People who receive the notification won’t be told who tested positive for the virus, but will get instructions to call their local health department to determine whether they need to be tested or take other steps, Tuneberg said.

Six states developed their own apps to piggyback off Apple’s and Google’s software before the two companies rolled out a direct-to-consumer option, according to The Washington Post. Some studies have suggested as much as 60% of the population would need to enable a notification app for it to effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19, though others think the technology could still help even if fewer people participate.

Gov. Jared Polis described downloading the app as an additional measure Colorado residents could take, while still wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“We want to use every tool in the toolbox,” he said at a news conference Tuesday.

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