Frequently Asked Questions

Read the FAQs to learn more about SlowCOVIDNC. Topics include app overview, how the app works, installation requirements, reporting a positive test result and receiving an exposure notification.

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App Overview

What is the SlowCOVIDNC app and who owns it?

What is the SlowCOVIDNC app and who owns it?

SlowCOVIDNC is the official COVID-19 Exposure Notification app for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). It leverages Bluetooth technology to let app users know if they may have been exposed to COVID-19, enabling them to quickly act to protect themselves and their community. SlowCOVIDNC users can anonymously share a positive COVID-19 test result through the app to notify other app users who may have been in close contact with them of their exposure. 

Am I required to download the SlowCOVIDNC app?

Am I required to download the SlowCOVIDNC app?

No, participation in Exposure Notification is completely voluntary. However, the more people that actively participate, the more we can slow the spread of COVID-19.

How can Exposure Notification apps help fight COVID-19?

How can Exposure Notification apps help fight COVID-19?

A key tool to slow the spread of COVID-19 is right in your pocket! The SlowCOVIDNC app quickly notifies you if you may have been exposed to COVID-19, allowing you to reduce the risk of illness for you and your loved ones by providing you with NCDHHS recommendations on how to self-quarantine and when to get tested. SlowCOVIDNC complements traditional contact tracing because it can notify individuals when they may have had an unknown community exposure to COVID-19.

Can the SlowCOVIDNC app protect me from COVID-19?

Can the SlowCOVIDNC app protect me from COVID-19?

The SlowCOVIDNC app is designed to notify you of potential exposure to COVID-19 and provide important public health recommendations for checking symptoms, self-quarantining, and testing. Some app users who receive an Exposure Notification may be eligible for support to safely quarantine.

Who provides the guidance and instructions within the app?

Who provides the guidance and instructions within the app?

Any instructions and guidance for app users will be provided by NCDHHS, in partnership with Local Health Departments and epidemiology experts and in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Who determines when a notification (i.e. time, distance) is triggered?

Who determines when a notification (i.e. time, distance) is triggered?

The criteria are based on CDC guidance and specifications. The current definition for close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

Are non-North Carolina residents able to install and use the app?

Are non-North Carolina residents able to install and use the app?

Anyone who downloads the SlowCOVIDNC app can use it and participate. However, phones cannot run multiple Exposure Notification apps at the same time.

When will the app no longer be necessary?

When will the app no longer be necessary?

SlowCOVIDNC has been developed to slow the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina by proactively notifying users of potential exposure. Once this health need has passed, the app will no longer be necessary.

Who can I contact with additional questions about SlowCOVIDNC?

Who can I contact with additional questions about SlowCOVIDNC?

Contact us at NCHealthIT@dhhs.nc.gov.

How the App Works

How does the SlowCOVIDNC Exposure Notification app work?

How does the SlowCOVIDNC Exposure Notification app work?

1. Download the free SlowCOVIDNC Exposure Notification app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and enable Bluetooth and Exposure Notifications. Bluetooth must be on for the app to work.
2. After opting-in to receive notifications, the app will generate an anonymous token for your device. A token is a string of random letters which changes every 10-20 minutes and is never linked to your identity or location but is linked to date. This protects your privacy and security.
3. Through Bluetooth, your phone and the phones around you with the SlowCOVIDNC app work in the background (minimizing battery) to exchange these anonymous tokens every few minutes. Phones record how long they are near each other and the Bluetooth signal strength of their exchanges in order to estimate distance.
4. If you test positive for COVID-19, you may obtain a unique PIN to submit in the app. This voluntary and anonymous reporting notifies others who have downloaded the app that they may have been in close contact with someone in the last 14 days who has tested positive and the approximate date of the contact .
5. PINs will be provided to app users who receive a positive COVID-19 test result through a web-based PIN Portal, by contacting the Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) call center, or by contacting their Local Health Department (LHD)
6. SlowCOVIDNC periodically downloads from the server tokens of users who have anonymously reported a positive test. Your phone then uses its record of the signal strength and duration of exposures with those tokens to calculate risk and determine if you have met the threshold to receive an Exposure Notification.

 

Does the app use any of my personal identifiable information?

Does the app use any of my personal identifiable information?

No, SlowCOVIDNC does not collect or share personally identifying or location information but does share information about the date of potential exposures. The app is designed to protect your privacy.

Are there any information security protocols to prevent hackers from using the app to gain personally identifiable information (PII)?

Are there any information security protocols to prevent hackers from using the app to gain personally identifiable information (PII)?

The SlowCOVIDNC app does not collect any PII; instead, anonymous tokens are assigned to a user's device and exchanged with other devices.

Does the app use my location?

Does the app use my location?

No, SlowCOVIDNC does not collect or share personally identifying or location information but does share information about the date of potential exposures. The app is designed to protect your privacy.

Note: On Android devices, location does need to be on for Bluetooth to work even though location is not used by the app.

 

What data does the app collect?

What data does the app collect?

App performance metrics data is collected and used to create aggregate views of how the app is being used and the impact it is having on the virus. It does not identify you. Here are the metrics that are collected from the app with your consent:

  • Whether the app on a phone is in use
  • Whether the app was deleted or dropped during the on-boarding screens
  • Whether the app has Exposure Notifications turned on, if a permission is not provided during on-boarding
  • Whether the app has received an Exposure Notification
  • Ratio of exposure notifications to positive cases

 

Do I have to leave SlowCOVIDNC open at all times for the app to work?

Do I have to leave SlowCOVIDNC open at all times for the app to work?

No. Even if the app is closed, it will still work in the background as long as Bluetooth and notifications are turned on.

Do I need to be connected to Wi-Fi or a cellular data connection for SlowCOVIDNC to work?

Do I need to be connected to Wi-Fi or a cellular data connection for SlowCOVIDNC to work?

The exchange of anonymous tokens between users is done over Bluetooth and does not require Wi-Fi or a cellular data connection. As long as Bluetooth is turned on, your phone will continue to exchange tokens with others.

Other app functionality, including PIN submission, downloading positive tokens to receive notifications, and the More Information section do require a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection to work. Standard rates will apply based on your individual data plan. We recommend using Wi-Fi for token downloads when available.

 

Does the SlowCOVIDNC app work outside the state of North Carolina?

Does the SlowCOVIDNC app work outside the state of North Carolina?

Yes. The SlowCOVIDNC app communicates with other state apps that are using the Google and Apple technology platform and opted into the National Key Server. So, if a SlowCOVIDNC app user is in close contact with someone using another state’s app (whether in NC or while traveling in another state), they will receive an Exposure Notification alert. 

Does the app also integrate with Exposure Notification Express functionality?

Does the app also integrate with Exposure Notification Express functionality?

Exposure Notification Express (ENX) is a new feature from Apple and Google that must be configured by each state’s public health authority to work. When states configure ENX, SlowCOVIDNC will work with the ENX solution.

How does the SlowCOVIDNC app know if I have tested positive for COVID-19?

How does the SlowCOVIDNC app know if I have tested positive for COVID-19?

The SlowCOVIDNC app relies on you to voluntarily and anonymously report if you have tested positive for COVID-19. The app will then anonymously notify other app users who may have been in close contact with you in the prior 14 days.

For people living in high-density residences (e.g., dormitory, apartment complex), do walls block the Bluetooth signal or could those living in adjacent quarters be flagged as a close contact?

For people living in high-density residences (e.g., dormitory, apartment complex), do walls block the Bluetooth signal or could those living in adjacent quarters be flagged as a close contact?

It depends. A wall should be strong enough to diminish the Bluetooth signals, but it varies based on the types of materials used in the building construction.

Does the use of face coverings influence whether an Exposure Notification is shared?

Does the use of face coverings influence whether an Exposure Notification is shared?

SlowCOVIDNC does not account for the use of masks or face coverings in the notification process. Even if a face covering is worn, you may be considered a close contact under CDC guidance. Learn more about the latest guidance here (CDC). 

When a person is notified of potential exposure to COVID-19, is that individual provided with a date/time of the exposure?

When a person is notified of potential exposure to COVID-19, is that individual provided with a date/time of the exposure?

The individual will receive an alert which indicates potential exposure a specified number of days ago. No other information is collected     or shared to protect the privacy of the person who tested positive.

If an app user submits a positive test result and does not follow guidelines to remain in self-isolation, are other SlowCOVIDNC app users notified?

If an app user submits a positive test result and does not follow guidelines to remain in self-isolation, are other SlowCOVIDNC app users notified?

When a person anonymously shares that they are positive in the app, Exposure Notifications are sent at that time to those who may have been in close proximity to that individual in the past 14 days. If the app user who submitted a positive result chooses not to self-isolate following the PIN submission, app users that come into contact with them will not be alerted.

Can I temporarily turn off the app?

Can I temporarily turn off the app?

If Bluetooth is turned off, your phone will not exchange tokens with others and Exposure Notifications will not function properly.

What happens to the data in the National Server?

What happens to the data in the National Server?

The National Key Server securely host the keys of all affected users at the national level, eliminating duplication and enabling Exposure Notifications across state borders. The National Server will temporarily store anonymous tokens. These tokens will be deleted 14 days after the token creation date.

Visit the APHL website for more information about the National Key Server.

Are exposure tokens cumulative?

Are exposure tokens cumulative?

Yes.  For example if an app user is exposed to someone for 10 minutes who later tests positive and is exposed to another user for 5 minutes who later tests positive within a short period of time, the algorithm will consider these encounters as an exposure and will send a notification.

The app calculates risk based on the Bluetooth signal strength and duration of the signal at that strength. Risk is summed over time and across persons in case there is exposure to more than one positive case, and a notification is triggered if the total risk meets the CDC definition of 15 minutes at 6 feet or less. 

Installation and Requirements

Where can I download SlowCOVIDNC app?

Where can I download SlowCOVIDNC app?

The SlowCOVIDNC app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store for iOS users and the Google Play Store for Android users.

What phones and operating systems can use SlowCOVIDNC?

What phones and operating systems can use SlowCOVIDNC?

iPhone users can use SlowCOVIDNC if your iPhone has iOS version 13.6 or above. The following iPhones support iOS 13.6: 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, Xr, Xs, Xs Max, X, SE (2nd generation), 8, 8 Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, SE (1st generation).

Android users can use SlowCOVIDNC if your Android smartphone supports Bluetooth Low Energy and Android Version 6 (API 23) or above.

Note that you will not be able to install and use SlowCOVIDNC if your phone does not meet these requirements.

 

What are the storage requirements on the smartphone for the SlowCOVIDNC app, tokens, etc.? Is there a minimum amount of free storage on the smartphone that users must have?

What are the storage requirements on the smartphone for the SlowCOVIDNC app, tokens, etc.? Is there a minimum amount of free storage on the smartphone that users must have?

Downloading the SlowCOVIDNC app takes up 10 MB of space, which is less storage than the average app requires.

Will this work with a smartwatch or a tablet that is Bluetooth enabled?

Will this work with a smartwatch or a tablet that is Bluetooth enabled?

No. The Exposure Notification technology was designed specifically for smartphones. It is not supported on smartwatches or tablets.

If I participated in Beta testing, do I need to uninstall the Beta app and install the new official app?

If I participated in Beta testing, do I need to uninstall the Beta app and install the new official app?

Yes, Beta testers will need to uninstall the Beta app once the testing period is complete and reinstall the official app.

What do I do if I receive an “Android Internal Error”?

What do I do if I receive an “Android Internal Error”?

If you receive an “internal error” on your Android phone, this is typically because the Google Play services are out of date and need to be updated. To fix this:

1. Uninstall SlowCOVIDNC.

2. Open the Settings app.

3. Tap “Apps” (or you may need to select “Apps & notifications” and then “See all apps.”)

4. Scroll down and tap Google Play services.

5. Scroll down and tap “App Details” or “App details in store”

6. Tap Update or Install.

7. Re-install the SlowCOVIDNC app.

What do I do if I see a “Domain Error” or “Error 14” on iOS?

What do I do if I see a “Domain Error” or “Error 14” on iOS?

If you see a “Domain Error” or “Error 14” on iOS, you most likely need to update the operating system. iOS versions 13.5 or 13.6 see this error, as well as users of the early beta versions of iOS 14. 

To fix this error, please update to iOS 13.6.1, iOS 13.7 or iOS 14.

To update your operation system, go to Settings > General > Software Update and install the prompted updates.

 

Reporting a Positive Test Result

What if people submit false test results in the app?

What if people submit false test results in the app?

To prevent users from submitting false test results, the SlowCOVIDNC app requires users to confirm their positive test result using a PIN provided by contacting the Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) call center at 844-628-7223, option 9, through a web-based portal, or by contacting their Local Health Department (LHD). 

What do I do if my PIN isn't working?

What do I do if my PIN isn't working?

If your PIN is not working, please call 844-628-7223 and press option 9 or email us at NCHealthIT@dhhs.nc.gov to resolve the issue.

Receiving an Exposure Notification

I forgot to turn Bluetooth on, can I still get Exposure Notifications?

I forgot to turn Bluetooth on, can I still get Exposure Notifications?

No. The app relies on Bluetooth technology to exchange tokens with other app users, so Bluetooth must be turned on in order for Exposure Notifications to work properly.

What should I do if I receive a potential Exposure Notification?

What should I do if I receive a potential Exposure Notification?

If you receive an Exposure Notification, you should stay home and away from others, including people in your household, (self-quarantine at home) for 14 days after your exposure.  You should get tested for COVID-19 immediately if you have symptoms or about 6 days after your exposure if you feel well, per NCDHHS guidance. It is recommended that you self-quarantine for the full 14 days after your last known exposure to COVID-19, even if you test negative, because it can take up to 14 days for the infection to develop. It is especially important that you wear a mask over your mouth and nose when you are around other people. 

How soon after a user enters a positive test result will other users receive an Exposure Notification?

How soon after a user enters a positive test result will other users receive an Exposure Notification?

After a person who tests positive anonymously enters their PIN into the SlowCOVIDNC app, that app user’s anonymous tokens are uploaded. Other SlowCOVIDNC users who have been in close contact with the individual who submitted a positive result into the app will be notified once their phone does the next check for exposures. The date and time of checks can be found on the Exposures tab under “Notification Status.” In general, this occurs within 12-24 hours.

Will I get a call from my local health department? How does the local health department know to call me if the app is anonymous?

Will I get a call from my local health department? How does the local health department know to call me if the app is anonymous?

You may also receive a phone call from your local health department to notify you of exposure to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.  Please answer this important phone call as a part of traditional contact tracing.  Your local health department may have more specific information about your exposure, and you should follow their instructions. While the app is anonymous, you can still be identified as being potentially exposed through traditional contact tracing conducted by the local health department.

What if I don’t get a call from my local health department?

What if I don’t get a call from my local health department?

Even if you don’t get a call from your local health department, you should self-quarantine.

I received a push notification from “COVID-19 Exposure Logging” but my Exposures tab says “No Past Exposures.” Why did I receive this notification?

I received a push notification from “COVID-19 Exposure Logging” but my Exposures tab says “No Past Exposures.” Why did I receive this notification?

If you received a notification from “COVID-19 Exposure Logging,” but your app's Exposure screen still says "No Exposures Detected" then it is likely that the notification you saw was a weekly summary notification from the operating system. This goes out weekly with text that says, "Your device identified # potential exposures this week, and shared them with SlowCOVIDNC." The “#” in that message would be replaced with the number of anonymous tokens your phone has exchanged with users who tested positive  , regardless of whether your exposure to them met the duration and distance thresholds NCDHHS uses to consider a significant exposure.

Your app would still say "No Exposures Detected" if those matched keys didn't add up to greater than 15 minutes of exposure and/or the Bluetooth signal strength of those keys didn't look like they were within 6 feet of you. According to the app's best estimate based on NCDHHS guidelines, you have not had a significant exposure, only a brief exposure, to someone who went on to test positive. 

We understand that this notification can cause confusion. This update notification will be changed starting in iOS version 13.7 and up. It will only be sent once a month from Settings, rather than Exposure Notifications, and will provide more of a status message to let users know that Exposure Notifications is on and working properly.  

 

Within “Settings” I can see several checks and many at the same time. Do these mean I was exposed?

Within “Settings” I can see several checks and many at the same time. Do these mean I was exposed?

Within your device’s Settings menu, you can see an Exposure Notification or Exposure Logging section. The path to these is slightly different on some devices, but is typically as stated below:

Android: Settings > Google > COVID-19 Exposure Notifications

iOS 13.5 or 13.6: Settings > Privacy > Health > COVID-19 Exposure Logging

iOS 13.7 or 14.0+: Settings > Exposure Notifications

Within those menus, you can find an “Exposure checks” field with a timestamped list. These items are not exposures, but rather when your device made checks against the tokens from positive users that your device has downloaded from the server to look if you have had an exposure.

You may see several entries with the same date, as the keys of positive users are separated into a few files, and your device will download and check for matches within each of those files.

Exposure Checks appear to be intermittent or have stopped on my Android device, what can I do?

Exposure Checks appear to be intermittent or have stopped on my Android device, what can I do?

You should see multiple exposure checks per day. Some Samsung devices are known to provide battery management services that can prevent exposure checks from running in the background. To prevent this from happening, ensure that SlowCOVIDNC is added to the list of “Apps that won’t be put to sleep.” To add to the list:

Go to Settings-Device care-Battery-App power management-Apps that won’t be put to sleep-Add apps. Select “SlowCOVIDNC” App and click “Add.”

If this does not resolve the issue or if you experience this on a non-Samsung device, please contact us at NCHealthIT@dhhs.nc.gov.