May 15, 2023 - COVID

So long, phone COVID-19 exposure notifications

Illustration of covid cell with three speech bubbles.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

If you got an alert saying you'll no longer get COVID-19 exposure notifications on your phone, don't bother checking your settings. It's not your device — it's the government.

Driving the news: The end of the federal public health emergency last Thursday also meant the end of federal funding for some state programs, Lacy Fehrenbach, chief of prevention for the Washington state Department of Health, said at a news conference last week.

  • One of the programs that lost funding was WA Notify, the system that alerts people they may have been exposed to COVID-19 by sending a message to their phones.
  • After launching in November 2020, the technology was used by nearly 4 million devices in Washington, and sent more than 2.5 million exposure notifications, according to the health department.

The bottom line: "Your phone will no longer notify you if you were near someone who tested positive for COVID-19," Fehrenbach said.

What's next: Public health officials are urging anyone who feels sick to promptly test for COVID-19, and to stay up to date on vaccinations and boosters.

  • "Though the public health emergency is over, the pandemic is not over," Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, the health department's chief science officer, said at last week's news conference.

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