COVID-19, News

As nation tops 200,000 COVID deaths, NC rolls out new tracking app, gets ready to open large outdoor venues

The NC Department of Health and Human Services has launched a new tool to help the state alert North Carolinians to if they have been exposed to COVID-19.

The free and voluntary app – ‘SlowCOVIDNC’ – leverages Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification System and will alert users if they have been in close contact with an individual who later tests positive for COVID-19.

“I want to be clear on what it does not do,” explained NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. “It does not collect, use or share any personal information. It does not use GPS  or know your location. It does use Bluetooth and does know if you’ve come into close range of another phone that also has the SlowCOVIDNC app.”

Through Bluetooth, phones with the SlowCOVIDNC app work in the background exchanging  anonymous “tokens” every few minutes. Phones record how long they are near each other and the Bluetooth signal strength of their exchanges in order to estimate distance.

If a person with the app tests positive, the individual may obtain a unique PIN to submit in the app. This voluntary and anonymous reporting notifies others who have downloaded the app that they may have been in close contact with someone in the last 14 days who has tested positive.

Sec. Cohen believes the new app will be especially useful in slowing the spread of the coronavirus on college campuses with students living in dorms or sharing off-campus apartments.

“The more folks that download it [the app] the better,” Cohen said. “If more folks have the app, it means it’s going to be able to signal to you if you’ve had an exposure.”

The launch of the app comes just days before the state is expected to announce the further easing of restrictions.

Governor Roy Cooper said his office will announce next week if key metrics continue to hold that larger outdoor event venues will be allowed to reopen at seven percent capacity starting October 2nd.

“We share this news today so that those outdoor venues with seating capacity of more than 10,000 can begin preparations that are key to safely reopening their doors to have a limited amount of socially distanced fans,” said Cooper.

The governor has been under pressure in recent weeks from sports fans that want to be back in the stadiums for the fall football season.

For Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte (with a capacity of 75,523 seats) it would mean roughly 5,286 fans could attend in person. At Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh (with a capacity of 58,000) it would mean 4,060 fans in attendance. Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill (with a capacity of 51,000) could accommodate 3,570 fans under the proposed guidelines.

Look for more details on those restrictions being lifted next week.

The governor also announced on Tuesday an additional $40 million in COVID relief funds for small businesses.

The N.C. Mortgage, Utility and Rent Relief (MURR) funds will be  administered by the state  Department of Commerce and will  provide up to $20,000 in relief  per qualifying business location.

Applicants can apply for up to four months of mortgage interest or rent expenses and utility expenses.

The Department of Commerce will begin accepting applications in the next two weeks.

For additional information on the program, visit www.nccommerce.com/murr.

North Carolina recorded 1,168 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a number that has been holding steady for the past week, with 905 people hospitalized.

Nationally, COVID-19 has infected 6.8 million Americans and now accounted for 200,477 deaths in our country, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.

Click below to learn more about the new app to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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