Health Unit encourages 'Covid Alert' app download

Example pages from Ontario's OVID-19 tracing app are shown. (Ontario Digital Service)

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit is encouraging residents to download the 'Covid Alert' application to their smartphones to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Joe Reid is a health promoter with the health unit and said the app is an important tool residents should take advantage of to keep themselves safe from coronavirus. 

"The more people that use it, the more helpful it will be to notify people of potential exposures of COVID-19," Reid said, adding it's also particularly poignant given schools are set to resume classes. 

"It's so important to keep kids in school and keep them as safe as possible, so it's best if we use all the tools we have at our disposal," he said.  

New numbers show the app, which is currently only available in Ontario, has only reported roughly 90 positive infections from over 2.2 million downloads in its first month, suggesting many aren't reporting positive cases. as the province has been reporting over 100 cases per day on average. 

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said Tuesday more targetted advertising could be done to help improve the apps uptake numbers, which could include young people, she said. 

In the same vain, Reid also encouraged High School students to download the app as they return for fall classes. 

He added its not a replacement for contact tracing but rather an effective tool to help aid in the process. 

How it works, privacy concerns 

The application is available on both Android or Apple devices and compiles Bluetooth data to notify people when they’ve been in proximity to someone who has tested positive for the virus. 

As long as the Bluetooth function is on, users will be able to be notified, but because the app remains voluntary, those who test positive have to log their information themselves online with a special code they are given. When the code is entered in the app, it notifies other users who may have come into close contact over the previous two weeks and steps on what to do next. 

Reid said the app doesn't collect users’ location, name or address, phone contacts or health information, meaning privacy is assured. 

"The privacy commissioners of both Ontario and Canada were consulted in development of the app to ensure the highest level of privacy for Canadians who choose to use the app," he said. 

Those looking for more information about the app can go to the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit website, or call the office directly.