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Some MN iPhone users can get COVID-19 exposure notifications without the state's app

The state's exposure notification system usually works through an app. But starting Monday, some iPhone users can opt in without it.
Credit: KARE
A COVIDaware notification on an iPhone user's phone.

Minnesota health officials first introduced COVIDaware – an exposure notification app that works through Bluetooth – in November 2020. 

Now, an opt-in expansion could bring it to your phone without that app. 

Minnesota iPhone users with devices on iOS 12.5 or 13.7 and higher got a notification about the opt-in setting Monday, officials said. In a release, Minnesota IT Services (MNIT) said the notification will tell users they can "turn on the COVIDaware MN exposure notification in their phone's settings." 

MNIT said if users enable the setting, they can get COVID-19 exposure notifications without downloading the COVIDaware MN app. 

In the MNIT release, Governor Tim Walz called COVIDaware MN a "powerful and anonymous tool."

"The new notification on iPhones will give Minnesotans greater access to this technology, so we can all play our part to slow the spread of COVID-19," he said. 

MNIT said the iPhone expansion will work the same way as the app. Both use random keys for users' phones that change every 10 to 20 minutes. Using Bluetooth, nearby phones exchange these keys. The release emphasizes that neither technology will track users' locations. 

Health officials said the technology behind COVIDaware is being used by more than 20 other states and territories.  

"The more individuals who download or enable COVIDaware MN, the more effective the tool will be," the release says.