A smartphone app that helps Hawaii residents discover whether they’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 has achieved more than 325,000 downloads since it launched last November.

That’s up from only about 100,000 downloads at the beginning of this month.

Developers of the AlohaSafe Alert say the more cell phone users in Hawaii that activate the app, the better it works.

In a bid to expand the app’s use among smartphone users, app developers plan to make the tool available in the next few days in more languages, including Tagalog, Ilocano, Samoan, Marshallese, Chuukese, Korean and Spanish.

The app uses new technology developed by Google and Apple to automate the time-consuming work of contact tracers.

Much like a news or weather notification, it sends push alerts to the cellphones of any user who came in close contact — within 6 feet for a duration of at least 15 minutes — with another app user who tested positive for the virus.

The goal is to speed up the work of discovering close contacts of people who contract COVID-19 so they can self-isolate and monitor symptoms. However, it’s a voluntary service and is only as powerful as its adoption.

If the app is used by 15% of the population, Oxford researchers using statistical modeling found it can lead to an 8% reduction in COVID-19 infections and a 6% reduction in deaths.

We appreciate gifts of any amount

When you give, your donation is combined with gifts from thousands of your fellow readers, and together you help power the strongest team of investigative journalists in the state.

Every little bit helps. Will you join us?

About the Author