Thousands in South Dakota added new phone app for tracking own movements amid COVID-19

Capitol News Bureau

FILE – A woman holds a cellphone in front of a laptop computer.

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Many people in South Dakota concerned about the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 have added the Care19 app to their Apple iPhones since it became available a few days ago.

A state Department of Health official said Sunday morning there were more than 6,500 downloads by South Dakotans in less than 72 hours since Governor Kristi Noem announced on Thursday that her administration would offer the same technology that North Dakota is using.

“We expect the Android version to be available this coming week,” said Derrick Haskins. He is communications director for the South Dakota Department of Health.

The app allows people to privately track their movements and decide later whether to provide access to the data.

However, iPhone users must have iOS version 13.0 or later, according to a message that a KELOLAND News reporter received when he attempted to download the North Dakota app Saturday.

“I heard back from the app developers and CARE19 does require iOS 13. Apple will soon require all new apps to be built for iOS 13 or later,” Haskins confirmed Sunday morning.

South Dakotans can go to South Dakota Department of Health’s website to learn more about the app and about state government’s broader efforts against the respiratory virus.

There has been push-back from some of the public in South Dakota about protecting privacy. The Care19 section of the website says the data is safe:

“This is a voluntary ‘opt in’ opportunity. All users will remain completely anonymous the entire time. App users are assigned a unique Care19 ID number upon startup of the app. There is no name, contact information, or credit card associated with your unique Care19 ID number. Care19 logs your location while protecting your data. Users can opt out at any time.”

Haskins said that if an individual tests positive, state Department of Health staff would ask if the person has been using the app. If the person gives consent to provide the location history, the department can use the information to help with contact tracing.

According to a South Dakota 911 Coordination Board report, there were 592,773 wireless lines paying state surcharges in January.

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