OLYMPIA – Washington state’s COVID-19 exposure notification tool, WA Notify, saved an estimated 30 to 120 lives and likely prevented about 6,000 COVID-19 cases during the first four months that it was in use.
Researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) conducted a modeling study of the free tool and released their results in a preprint version on June 7, 2021. Their analysis offers the first estimate of the public health value of Bluetooth exposure notification systems in the U.S.
More than two million people have enabled WA Notify since its launch on Nov. 30, 2020. The tool sends alerts to users if they may have been exposed to COVID-19. It works through smartphones without sharing any personal information. One third of all smartphone users in the state have activated WA Notify and Washington ranks highly compared with other states for adoption of the exposure notification tool.
“The goal for exposure notification is to help more people get the information and care they need more quickly so they can avoid spreading COVID-19 to others,” says Lacy Fehrenbach, Deputy Secretary for COVID-19 Response at DOH. “We are thrilled to see how well it has worked so far.”
“When we launched WA Notify back in November, it was a new digital public health tool representing an opportunity to help control COVID-19 in Washington,” says Janet G. Baseman, Professor and Associate Dean, University of Washington School of Public Health. “It’s incredibly exciting to now have some preliminary evidence of the value of WA Notify and to have a new tool to add to our public health toolbox for managing pandemics.”
The study covered the period from Nov. 30, 2020, to March 31, 2021, which was also the highest peak of COVID-19 cases in the state. During this time, DOH documented nearly 200,000 new cases, more than 8,500 hospitalizations and almost 2,500 deaths. It was the highest volume of case investigation and contact tracing activity since the start of the pandemic. Having an electronic tool to alert people of possible exposure helped protect people from the deadly virus.
More than 14,000 users have received a positive COVID-19 test and used the app to alert others anonymously. To make the tool broadly available, DOH has translated messages into 30 languages for in-app use and more than 36 languages for web pages, social media and other marketing efforts.
To learn more about WA Notify and get instructions for enabling the tool on your phone, visit WANotify.org.