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Wisconsin expected to release contact tracing app in December

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is developing a new program to help with contact tracing in the state.

A DHS spokesperson says the state has started working with Apple and Google to develop an exposure notification application.

As the virus has spread rapidly across the state this fall, DHS has struggled to hire enough contact tracers to properly track who is at risk of getting sick.

Many local health departments have moved to a crisis model of contact tracing, where staff members are not able to reach out to every person who has had close contact with someone who tests positive.

Wisconsin's COVID-19 notification app is expected to be released in mid to late December.

"We are excited to employ another tool that helps people quickly and conveniently notify people with whom they’ve been in contact since testing positive for COVID-19. The fast notification of close contacts allows them quarantine more quickly in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus," A DHS spokesperson said in a statement.

At least 15 other states have similar cell phone apps that offer pop-up notifications if you were close to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The contact tracing apps use Bluetooth to ping constantly-changing codes of nearby phones. When someone who uses the feature tests positive for the virus, they get a pin from a health official to enter into their phone. Any other phones nearby in the previous two weeks will then get an alert.

Experts say the apps are private and anonymous. They don't collect data on users or their location.

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