A smartphone app that notifies people if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 has been approved for a full rollout with an anticipated launch date of mid-December.

Maui County says Lanai and Hana residents have been participating in a pilot project to test the “AlohaSafe Alert” app. Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang explains it’s only as good as the number of people who use it.

The “AlohaSafe Alert” app is an exposure notification program. Using Bluetooth technology to anonymously communicate with other phones, officials say you’ll be sent an alert if you’ve been within 6 feet of a confirmed positive case for at least 15 minutes in the past 14 days.

“It doesn’t tell you who it is. It doesn’t tell you where it occurred,” said Dr Pang. “To make it confidential, every case is pinged once to a new person.”

Dr. Pang says the app is similar to contract tracing and the state has access to information that can identify a person.

“And we should, because if somebody, if the case doesn’t squirrel themselves away, we’re going to enforce them,” he said. “But if we violate it…then the state should be punished.”

Dr. Pang also ran post-arrival surveillance testing at the airport that recently ended. Instead of testing travelers a few days into their vacation, they were tested on departure so participants had nothing to lose. Dr. Pang tells us they were aiming for 300 and ended up testing 281 people.

“Every day the participation rate was 70%. And that’s what’s expected. And that’s a very high number.”

Dr. Pang says there were tests that came back positive but he is not disclosing details ahead of the study they’re trying to put together.