Phone COVID-19 exposure notifications in Washington state have ended

Washington State Department of Health ends program that sent COVID-19 exposure notifications to residents' phones. With the recent end of the federal public health emergency, federal funding for a variety of pandemic-related programs has dried up.
Photo courtesy Shutterstock.com

With the recent end of the federal public health emergency, federal funding for a variety of pandemic-related programs has dried up

Glenn Minnis
The Center Square Washington

The Washington State Department of Health has officially pulled the plug on a program that alerted residents by phone that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 by sending a message directly to their phones.

With the recent end of the federal public health emergency, federal funding for a variety of pandemic-related programs has dried up, including WA Notify.

“The reason we’re having this media briefing is we wanted to answer questions providing clarity to the end of latest health emergency,” Dr. Umair Shah, secretary of health, said at a May 5 media briefing. “We wanted to provide guidance on where we’re moving as a state. As you know, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the continental U.S. right here in the state of Washington.”

State officials said that over time the technology came to be used by almost 4 million devices across Washington, including nearly 2.5 million exposure notifications.

“This has not been easy; this has been a long, tiring road,” Shah added. “Washingtonians did their part and for that we should be incredibly proud of how our state, how our community, and how our people all came together in the midst of this public health emergency.”

Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary for prevention and health for the Department of Health, said extra pandemic deaths were avoided because of the program.

“Since the statewide launch of WA Notify way back on Nov. 30, 2020, 235,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in WA Notify,” she said. “And that generated more than 2.5 million exposure notifications and those notices allowed people to more quickly take action to isolate themselves away from others and help us avoid further spread of the disease. WA Notify prevented thousands of COVID cases in Washington state and helped us save more lives over the duration of the pandemic.”

This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.


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