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Nov. 11, 2020

MSU COVID-19 App pilot leads to early statewide launch

This week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services kicked off a statewide launch of the MI COVID Alert exposure notification app. The launch, which was originally scheduled for the week of Nov. 23, was accelerated following a successful pilot test within the Michigan State University campus community.  

While Michigan joins several other states including Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania who have all launched exposure notification apps, MSU is one of just a few universities to pilot an app prior to a statewide launch.  

MI COVID Alert uses secure Bluetooth low energy technology to detect nearby phones of other app users and can notify individuals when they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus. 

Michigan public health officials approached MSU in September about launching the app on campus and across Ingham County. Health officials asked MSU to conduct research and develop a strategic communication plan that would encourage individuals to download the app. Information gathered during the pilot, including the overall success of the app, would ultimately be used to make a decision about the viability of a statewide launch. 

MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D approved the request and, on Oct. 15, with a comprehensive communication strategy in place, the MI COVID Alert app became available for Spartans to download on IOS and Android devices.  

MSU set an aggressive goal of 20,000 downloads by students, faculty and staff within 30 days of the launch and an additional 8,000 downloads across greater Ingham county.  

By Oct. 18, MI COVID Alert had been downloaded nearly 10,000 times. Within two weeks of the launch, downloads had surpassed 30,000 and with additional communication outreach, the numbers continue to rise.  

This week, as MDHHS kicked off the statewide launch of MI COVID Alert, more than 46,000 people from the MSU community and Ingham County had downloaded the app. 

“The positive response demonstrates the commitment of the Spartan community to be part of the solution,” said Shawn Turner, professor in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, who is leading the app pilot project for MSU. “Spartans want to do their part to slow the spread of this virus and they want to protect the people they care about. Downloading the app helps them do that.” 

Despite meeting and exceeding download goals at MSU, the pilot will continue to run through the end of 2020.  

“We are not done,” Turner said. “We’re going to work with businesses in East Lansing and throughout Ingham County to keep encouraging more people to download the app. The more people who download the app, the safer we will all be.” 

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