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New iPhone update allows exposure notification apps — but not in Utah yet

File: a user on an iPhone. Photo: Shutterstock via CNN

SALT LAKE CITY — The latest update of iOS for Apple iPhone users includes opting in to COVID-19 exposure notification apps. 

That update comes with iOS 13.7, pushed out to phones this month. However, even if you opt in, you must also have an actual COVID-19 app installed on your phone for it to work. 

“On top of that,” said Jenny Johnson, spokeswoman for Utah Department of Health, “it must be an app with Google technology.”

How exposure notification apps work

The Google technology has built-in GPS technology. It keeps a log of all other mobile phones with the same exposure notification app installed that your phone has been within six feet of.

If you test positive for coronavirus, and then input that information to your app, other users with the same exposure notification app who opted in receive a notification. 

exposure notification apps

Explanation of Apple iOS 13.7 update. Screen shot from iPhone by Heather Kelly, KSL NewsRadio

The app may also be helpful for health officials who speak to the infected person and go over the GPS data.  It can jog a person’s memory when the GPS shows you went to a house or a grocery store.  

“You might remember you ran into your neighbor at the store and spoke to them for half an hour,” said Johnson. 

That’s when contact tracing kicks in, she said.  

The apps will only notify a person if they’ve been close to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.  But Johnson said only health department officials can do contact tracing with information gathered from both people and the exposure notification apps.

Utah launched the “Healthy Together” app with the hopes it would serve as an exposure notification system.  But, Johnson said problems with the design and people not understanding how it would work stymied the plan.

“Right now, the app is mostly used for people to find testing centers and what symptoms to be aware of,” she said.  

New tech not yet available in Utah

exposure notification apps

Screen shot from iPhone: Becky Bruce, KSL NewsRadio

The governor’s office will have to decide whether to partner with Google and Apple to use the technology for the

Healthy Together app.  Currently, Google will only allow one app per state to use the technology, so no exposure notification apps are available to Utah users. 

You can still opt in, or out, of future exposure notification technology by going to Settings, then “Health,” then “COVID-19 Exposure Logging” on your iPhone.

If you do not see the option for exposure logging, you may need to update your iPhone software. This is also available in settings.

Then, if and when exposure notification apps become available in Utah, with notifications turned on, you could start receiving information related to contract tracing.