Washington Exposure Notifications FAQs

WA Exposure Notifications Basics

What is WA Exposure Notifications?

WA Exposure Notifications allows users to find out if they’ve had an exposure to COVID-19 without sharing any personal information. The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to detect when you are in close proximity to other users, and will notify you if you have been in proximity to a user who tests positive for COVID-19. This lets you get the care you need quickly and helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

How does it work?

When you use WA Exposure Notifications, your phone exchanges random, anonymous codes with other phones you’ve been in close range with. Your phones will exchange these random codes (or “tokens”) without revealing any information about you. If someone you've been in proximity with in the last two weeks tests positive for COVID-19, you’ll get an anonymous notification that you’ve had a possible exposure.

Is WA Exposure Notifications a contact tracing app?

No. Contact tracing means identifying who a person who tests positive for COVID-19 has been in contact with. WA Exposure Notifications does not track or trace information about the people you are in contact with, so it doesn’t do “contact tracing.” The app doesn’t collect or exchange any personal information, so it isn’t possible for any entity to know who you have been in contact with.

What is an “exposure”?

An exposure occurs when you have been in close range for a significant period of time with another WA Exposure Notifications user who tests positive for COVID-19. This follows current guidance from the CDC about social distancing and transmission of COVID-19.

What happens if WA Exposure Notifications tells me I’ve had an exposure?

If WA Exposure Notifications detects that you’ve had an exposure, you will get a notification on your phone that directs you to a WANotify website with information about what you should do next. This includes how and where to get tested, information about keeping yourself and those close to you safe, and resources to answer your questions. It’s important to read and follow the directions on the website carefully.

How is my privacy protected?

WA Exposure Notifications is based on Google Apple Exposure Notifications technology, which was designed to safeguard user privacy. The system never collects or shares any location data or personal information with Google, Apple, UW, or other users. In addition, participation is entirely voluntary — users can opt in or out at any time. For more information about the measures in place to safeguard user privacy, see the WA Exposure Notifications privacy policy.

Will people know if I test positive for COVID-19?

No. WA Exposure Notifications does not share any information about you with anyone else. When someone receives an exposure notification, they will only know that someone they’ve been in proximity with in the last two weeks has tested positive for COVID-19. They won’t know who the person was, or where or when the exposure occurred.

Who is the team behind this app?

The WA Exposure Notifications application is implemented and managed by faculty, staff developers, and students at the University of Washington (UW) & Brotman Baty Institute in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Health. WA Exposure Notify is an initiative within the CommonCircle project (https://commoncircle.us), which includes the team above, volunteers from across Microsoft Research and Microsoft product divisions, volunteers from other organizations and health departments, and operates under oversight from the Washington Department of Health.

WA Exposure Notifications Pilot Period

I activated/downloaded WA Exposure Notifications during the UW Pilot. What happens now that the statewide version has been released?

The UW Pilot officially ended on November 30, 2020 when Washington release the statewide version for all people in Washington to use. Whether you use an iPhone or Android, the early release pilot version automatically became the statewide release version, and will function on your phone exactly as it did during the pilot. You do not need to update anything on your phone, the transition happened automatically when the statewide version launched on November 30. You are able to keep using WA Exposure Notifications just as you were before November 30.

Who can use WA Exposure Notifications?

As of November 30, 2020, WA Exposure Notifications is available to everyone in the state of Washington. You can find information about the statewide launch here.

When is the end of the early release pilot period?

It ended on November 30, 2020 when WA Exposure Notifications was made available to everyone in Washington.

Installing and using the app

How do I download/activate WA Exposure Notifications on my smartphone?

The instructions for downloading and activating for both iPhone and Android are here.

Will using WA Exposure Notifications drain my battery or use a lot of data?

No. WA Exposure Notifications is designed to have minimal effect on your data and battery life by using Bluetooth Low Energy technology.

Does WA Exposure Notifications work if I travel out of state?

Yes. If you are traveling to a state that has an exposure notification app that uses the Apple/Google technology, your phone will continue exchanging random codes with users in that state. There is no need to change anything about the app settings. If you go on a trip, you can continue using WA Exposure Notifications by keeping Washington as your selected state for alerts. If you move out of Washington for an extended period, you should review options in your new state to get local support.

Does my phone need to be with me?

Yes. WA Exposure Notifications works because the random code exchange happens when two phones are near each other. If your phone is not with you, the exchanged codes will not accurately reflect your contact with other people.

Android phones:

Where can I find WA Notify in the Google Play Store?
You can find the Play Store link here. Play Store link here.

Where can I get technical support?
General technical support for Android is available online here. If you have questions specific to the WA Exposure Notifications app you can email us at WANotify@uw.edu.

iPhone phones:

Why can’t I find WA Exposure Notifications in the App Store?
WA Exposure Notifications can be activated on your iPhone by following these directions. It is not available in the App Store.

Does WA Exposure Notifications work with my Apple Watch?
No. Apple Watch does not support the technology that WA Exposure Notifications relies on, and can not exchange your random codes with other devices. Installing WA Exposure Notifications on your smartphone is the only effective way to use the system. (When you install the iPhone profile during the early-release pilot phase, your phone may ask if you want to install it on your Apple Watch or your iPhone. Choose “iPhone”.)

Why isn’t activation working on my phone?
You may need to update iOS on your phone. Make sure you have iOS 13.7 or newer installed on your phone and then try the activation instructions again. If you need more help you can call Apple customer service at 800-APL-CARE or email us at WANotify@uw.edu.

How do I check that notifications are enabled on my iPhone?
Go to Settings > Exposure Notifications. If WA Exposure Notifications is properly activated you should see that “Exposure Logging Status” is Active and there will be a green checkmark next to it. You will also see that your “Active Region” is set to Washington State, Department of Health.

Where can I get technical support?
Technical support for WA Exposure Notifications is available from Apple by calling 800-APL-CARE. If you need other assistance you can email us at WANotify@uw.edu.

COVID-19 Information

Someone I’ve been in close contact with tested positive for COVID-19, why didn’t I get a notification from WA Exposure Notifications?

WA Exposure Notifications is currently available only to people participating in early release pilots, and use is voluntary, so not everyone you are in contact with will be a user. In addition, bluetooth exposure notification is based on detecting signals from phones over significant periods of time. It is designed to be similar to being in close contact, but it is not the same thing. Because of that it’s important to remember that you can be exposed to COVID-19 without receiving a notification from your phone. Treat a notification from your phone as one more piece of information, but if you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, please review this information to determine your next steps, whether you get a notification or not.

What should I do if my friend/roommate/classmate/colleague tests positive for COVID-19?

You can find information about what to do if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 on the Washington State COVID-19 information page.

If you are participating in an early release pilot, we suggest you look at the page for that pilot:

Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

If you are participating in an early release pilot, please see information about testing on the page for that pilot, in the answer above.

You can find testing locations in Washington State here.

Contact us for more info

wanotify@uw.edu