Washington Exposure Notifications - WA Notify

WA Notify (also known as Washington Exposure Notifications) is a free tool you can add to your smartphone to alert users of potential COVID-19 exposures. It is completely private, doesn’t collect or share any personal information, and doesn't track where you go. 

WA Notify activations
Nearly 3.77 million activations
(as of 10 a.m. on 12/9/2022)

How do I add WA Notify to my phone?

Apple logo

On an iPhone, enable Exposure Notifications in Settings:

  • Go to Settings
  • Scroll down to Exposure Notifications
  • Click “Turn On Exposure Notifications”
  • Select United States
  • Select Washington
Android logo

On an Android phone:

For Android or iPhone, scan the QR code or add WA Notify to your phone if you’re using a mobile device.

WA Notify QR code

How does it work?

When you enable WA Notify, your phone exchanges random, anonymous codes with the phones of people you are near who have also enabled WA Notify. The system uses privacy-preserving Low Energy Bluetooth technology to exchange these codes without revealing any information about you. If another WA Notify user you've recently been near later tests positive for COVID-19 and follows the steps to anonymously notify others, you'll get an alert. This lets you get the care you need quickly and helps prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to the people around you.

An algorithm does the math to identify events that could potentially transmit COVID-19 from ones that were at a safe distance or short enough that you don't need to be warned. WA Notify will only alert you if you have potentially been exposed. So not receiving an alert is good news.

WA Notify is also available in more than 30 languages.

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WA Notify Flow Chart - Click to Read as PDF

How is my privacy protected?

WA Notify is based on Google Apple Exposure Notification technology, which is designed to protect your privacy. It works in the background without collecting or revealing any location or personal data. WA Notify doesn't need to know who or where you are to work effectively. By using only tiny bursts of Bluetooth, your battery is not impacted.

Participation is entirely voluntary. Users can opt in or out at any time. For more information about how user privacy is protected, see the WA Notify privacy policy.

What do the notifications look like?

There are two types of notifications you may receive. Those who test positive will receive a verification link text message and/or a pop-up notification. WA Notify users who may have been exposed will receive an exposure notification. Learn more about these notifications and see what they look like.

How does WA Notify help?

Studies have found that the more people who use exposure notifications, the greater the benefit. Models based on three counties in Washington State show that even a small number of people there using WA Notify would reduce infections and deaths. When we get vaccinated and wear masks, we can save lives. As we resume in-person events, WA Notify is an added layer of protection. It is one more thing you can do to keep you and those around you safe.

How to notify others if you test positive for COVID-19 with a self-test

WA Notify users who use a self-test kit (also called at-home tests) and test positive for COVID-19 can request a verification code to anonymously notify other WA Notify users that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Apple logo

On an iPhone:

  • Go to Settings and open Exposure Notifications.
  • Select “Share a COVID-19 Diagnosis.”
  • Select “Continue.”
  • If you see an option to enter a code, select “Didn’t get a code? Visit WA State Dept. of Health Website.” If you don’t see an option to enter your code, go to the next step.
  • Enter the phone number of your device that uses WA Notify and the date of your positive COVID-19 test.
  • Select “Continue.”
Android logo

On an Android phone:

For Android or iPhone, scan the QR code or request a verification code if you’re using a mobile device.

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For Android or iPhone, scan the QR code to notify others if you test positive for COVID-19 with a self-test

You will receive a pop-up notification and a text message with your verification link. You only need to tap the notification or click the link in the text message to follow the steps in WA Notify to anonymously alert other users of a possible exposure.

If you are unable to request a verification code in WA Notify, you should call the state COVID-19 hotline, 1-800-525-0127, then press #, and let the hotline staff know that you are a WA Notify user. The hotline staff can provide you with a verification link you can use to alert other WA Notify users that they may have been exposed.

How to report your positive self-test COVID-19 test results

People who use a self-test kit (also called at-home tests) and test positive for COVID-19 can report positive results to DOH, outside of the WA Notify application. For current guidance on how to report a positive test result, refer to the DOH Testing for COVID-19 page.

Free self-test kits are also available from Say Yes! COVID Test.

Additional guidance can be found on DOH’s What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 resource.

Please note: WA Notify is an exposure notification tool. It was not designed for users to report their test results to DOH. Reporting results to DOH is outside the WA Notify application system.

Why do we need both contact tracing and WA Notify?

Contact tracing has been an effective public health intervention for decades. WA Notify supports this work anonymously. Here’s an example: If you test positive for COVID-19, public health officials may call and ask you to share your recent close contacts. You can’t name a stranger you sat near on a bus. If you both use WA Notify, the stranger from the bus can be anonymously alerted of the possible exposure and take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to their friends and family. Just like vaccines and wearing a mask each help stop the spread of COVID-19, together they are more effective.

Do I need to keep using WA Notify or can I turn it off now?

We encourage everyone to keep WA Notify activated on their phone and not turn it off. As restrictions loosen and activities resume, WA Notify is an easy way to carry an extra layer of protection with you.

Do I need WA Notify if I’ve been vaccinated?

Yes! Washington State will be dealing with COVID-19 for some time. We are still learning many things about the virus, such as how long the vaccines are effective and how well vaccinations protect against new COVID-19 variants. Even if the risk is smaller for vaccinated people, we know that fully vaccinated individuals may still contract and spread COVID-19. Also, we know there are individuals who are still unvaccinated. For all these reasons, we encourage all Washington residents to activate WA Notify on their phones– to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Want to help spread the word about WA Notify?

Check out our WA Notify toolkit for social media messaging, posters, sample radio and TV ads, and more. Also, tell your friends and family. The more people who use WA Notify, the better it is at helping protect you and your community.

Other frequently asked questions

How do I find my date of exposure in WA Notify?

On an iPhone:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Exposure Notifications or enter Exposure Notifications in the Search Bar
  3. Your approximate date of possible exposure will be shown under “You may have been exposed to COVID-19”

On an Android:

  1. Open the WA Notify app
  2. Select See Details under “Possible exposure reported”
  3. Your approximate date of possible exposure will be shown under “Possible Exposure Date”
I received a notification and/or a text from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). Why?

DOH sends a text message and/or a pop-up notification to everyone who recently tested positive for COVID-19 so that WA Notify users can quickly and anonymously alert other users of a possible exposure. Learn more about these notifications and see what they look like.

If you receive both a text message and notification, you only need to tap the notification or click the link in the text message and follow the steps in WA Notify to anonymously alert other users of a possible exposure.

I got a notification about contributing my WA Notify data to public health. Why?

DOH wants to know how well WA Notify is working so we can make any improvements needed to the tool. If you agree to share your WA Notify data, your privacy is still fully protected. No personal information is collected or shared and there is no way to identify you. Only DOH can access this data and only at the state level.

If WA Notify users agree to share their data, what is collected?

If you agree to share your data, your privacy is still fully protected. No personal information is collected or shared, so there is no way to identify you. Only the Washington State Department of Health can see this state-level data, which will include:

  • The number of people who agree to share their data from WA Notify. This helps us know how representative our sample is.
  • The number of exposure notifications received by WA Notify users. This helps us see trends in the spread of COVID-19.
  • The number of people who click on an exposure notification. This helps us explore how willing people are to consider public health recommendations.
  • The number of people who were near someone who tested positive for COVID-19, but not close enough or for long enough to notified of an exposure. This helps us consider whether the algorithm that determines an exposure in WA Notify should be adjusted.
When I enable WA Notify on my iPhone, should I have the "Availability Alerts" toggle on or off?

Off is fine. Although it is recommended that you turn it on if you travel outside Washington state for a considerable period of time. When Availability Alerts is on, you could receive a notification when you travel to another location that provides an exposure notification tool like WA Notify. If you have an iPhone, you can add multiple regions but only one region can be active at a time. You do not need to remove a region to activate a new one. If you have an Android phone, you can install exposure notification apps like WA Notify from multiple states, but only one app that uses technology compatible with WA Notify can be active at a time.

Do I have to opt-in to use WA Notify?

Yes. Using WA Notify is free and voluntary. You can opt-out at any time. To do this, simply turn the feature off on an iPhone or delete the app from an Android phone. Once you opt-out, all random codes the phone has stored from other nearby users will be deleted and cannot be recovered.

Is WA Notify a contact tracing app?

No. WA Notify does not track or trace information about the people you have been near, so it doesn't do “contact tracing.” Contact tracing identifies anyone a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 may have exposed. The tool doesn't collect or exchange any personal information, so it isn't possible for anyone to know who you have been in contact with.

What is an “exposure”?

An exposure occurs when you have spent time near another WA Notify user who later tests positive for COVID-19. To determine an exposure, WA Notify uses an algorithm to identify events that could potentially transmit COVID-19 from ones that were at a safe distance or short enough that you don't need to be warned. WA Notify will only send you an exposure notification if your interaction with another user is close enough and long enough that it meets the conditions in which DOH believes there is a significant risk of COVID-19 transmission. This algorithm can be adjusted by public health officials.

What happens if WA Notify tells me I may have been exposed?

If WA Notify detects you may have been exposed, a notification on your phone will direct you to a website with information about what you should do next. This includes how and where to get tested, information about keeping yourself and those close to you safe, and resources to answer your questions. It's important to read and follow the directions on the website carefully.

Will people know if I test positive for COVID-19?

No. WA Notify does not share any information about you with anyone else. When someone receives a notification about possible exposure, they will only know that someone they were near recently has tested positive for COVID-19. They won't know who the person was or where the exposure occurred.

Do I have to pay for WA Notify?

No. WA Notify is free.

How will WA Notify help Washington state?

A study by the University of Washington found that the more people who use exposure notification, the greater the benefit. Results showed that WA Notify saved an estimated 40 to 115 lives and likely prevented about 5,500 COVID-19 cases during the first four months that it was in use. Data models show that even a small number of people using WA Notify would reduce COVID-19 infections and deaths, proving that WA Notify is an excellent tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Does WA Notify work if I travel out of state?

Yes. If you travel to a state with an app that uses the same Google/Apple technology, your phone will continue exchanging random codes with users in that state. There is no need to change anything in your smartphone settings. If you move out of Washington for an extended period, you should review options in your new state to get local support and alerts.

How long does WA Notify take to notify other users?

Users who may have been exposed to COVID-19 by another user will receive a notification within 24 hours after the COVID-positive user follows the steps in WA Notify to anonymously alert other WA Notify users.

Is it possible to receive multiple alerts from WA Notify?

Users who test positive may receive both a pop-up notification and a text message. Users who may have been exposed multiple times will be notified of every new exposure.

How do I tell WA Notify if I test positive for COVID?

If you test positive and someone from DOH or your local public health authority reaches out to you, they will ask if you are using WA Notify. If you are, they will send you a verification link and/or notification and help you follow the steps to enter it into WA Notify. The link or notification is not tied to your personal information. DOH also sends a text message and/or notification to phone numbers used by people who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

DOH has no way to know who will receive WA Notify exposure notifications when you follow the steps. The exposure notification will not include any information about you. The more people who anonymously confirm their results in WA Notify, the better we can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If you have tested positive and still need to anonymously confirm your result in WA Notify, refer to the “How to notify others if you test positive for COVID-19 with a self-test” section above on this page for steps to request a verification code to anonymously notify other WA Notify users of potential exposure.

Is there anything I need to do after adding WA Notify to my phone?

Additional action is only needed if:

  1. You test positive for COVID-19, or
  2. You receive a notification that you may have been exposed.

If you test positive, and someone from DOH or your local public health authority reaches out to you, they will ask if you are using WA Notify. If you are, they will send you a verification link and/or notification and help you follow the steps to enter it into WA Notify. The link or notification are not tied to your personal information. DOH has no way to know who will be notified by the app about exposure. The exposure notification will not include any information about you. The more people who anonymously confirm their results in WA Notify, the better we can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If you have tested positive and need a verification code, refer to the “How to notify others if you test positive for COVID-19 with a self-test” section above on this page for steps to request a verification code to anonymously notify other WA Notify users of potential exposure.

Will using WA Notify drain my battery or use a lot of data?

No. It's designed to have minimal effect on your data and battery life by using Bluetooth Low Energy technology.

Why does it look like WA Notify is using a lot of battery life?

Actually, it probably isn't. Battery use on your device shows what percentage of the battery used each day includes apps like WA Notify. Most apps and tools don't run overnight. WA Notify doesn't either, but it does check random codes every few hours for matches to a positive user so it can alert you to any possible exposures. So, for example, if no other apps are running while you sleep, WA Notify would represent a high percentage of the battery used during that time. That doesn't mean WA Notify is using a lot of battery – just a high percentage of the small amount of the battery used.

Do I need to keep Bluetooth turned on for WA Notify to work?

Yes. WA Notify uses Bluetooth Low Energy, so Bluetooth must always be active for the system to detect other users nearby.

Do I need to have WA Notify open on my phone for it to work?

No. WA Notify will work in the background.

Is WA Notify supported on older smartphones?

iPhone users can use WA Notify if your operating system is:

  • iOS version 13.7 or later (for iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, SE or newer)
  • iOS version 12.5 (for iPhone 6, 6 plus, 5s)

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

Do I have to be 18 to use WA Notify?

No. WA Notify does not know or check your age.

Will this technology work if I share a phone with someone?

WA Notify can't tell who was using a phone at the time of a potential exposure. If you share a phone, everyone who uses the phone needs to follow public health instructions if WA Notify indicates a possible exposure to COVID-19.

I received a notification and/or a text, but the person tested was a family or household member. What should I do?

The WA Notify user who tested positive should follow the steps to anonymously alert others who may have been exposed, so you should ignore any texts or notifications that are not meant for you.

If your family or household member is a WA Notify user, has tested positive, and still needs to confirm their result in WA Notify, they can follow the steps in the “How to notify others if you test positive for COVID-19 with a self-test” section of this page.

Does WA Notify work on devices like iPads or smart watches?

No. The Exposure Notification system was designed specifically for smartphones and is not supported on iPads or tablets.

What is Washington state doing to provide access to this technology for people who don't have smart phones?

WA Notify is not the only tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing and other efforts benefit every Washington resident, even if they do not have a smartphone. Vaccines are the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19, and wearing masks, physically distancing, and limiting the size of gatherings are other ways everyone can help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The federal government's Lifeline program provides a monthly phone bill credit for those who qualify. Some participating wireless service providers may also provide a free smartphone. Learn more about the program, who qualifies, how to apply and participating wireless providers.

Washington released WA Notify in more than 30 languages, so why do I only see it in English and Spanish in the Google Play store?

WA Notify operates based on the language set as the default on a user's phone. There's only one version of WA Notify, but any pop-ups – an exposure notification, for example – will appear in a user's preferred language for more than 30 languages.

How much time do I have to tap the notification or activate the verification link?

You have 24 hours after receiving the notification or text message to follow the steps to notify others in WA Notify. If you are not able to tap the notification or click the verification link within that time, you may request a verification code in WA Notify by following the steps in the “How to notify others if you test positive for COVID-19 with a self-test” section above on this page. You may also request a verification link when someone from DOH or your local health authority reaches out to you about your COVID-19 test results.

Why did Washington choose this solution?

Washington formed a state oversight group, including security and civil liberties experts and members of several communities, to review the Google/Apple exposure notification system. The group recommended adoption based on the platform's proven reliability, robust data protection and use by other states.