With the release of iOS 16.4 in March, Apple added the ability for health authorities to end their support for Apple’s COVID-19 Exposure Notifications feature.
Now, following the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency in the United States on Thursday, many iPhone users are now receiving push notifications on their devices informing them that exposure notifications have been disabled in their area…
‘Exposure Notifications Off’ notification on iPhone
On Thursday, the Biden administration officially allowed the emergency declaration that declared the COVID-19 pandemic a public health emergency to expire. While this change will not have immediate impact on most people, it will lead to an end of federal funding for a number of COVID-related programs.
On Thursday evening, iPhone users around the United States began receiving push notifications on their devices saying that their health authority had turned off Exposure Notifications support. “Your iPhone is no longer logging nearby devices and will not be able to notify you of possible exposures,” Apple says to those users.
It’s unclear if this change is directly tied to the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. It’s also unclear if every health agency is ending its support for Exposure Notifications. So far, we’ve seen reports from readers in New York, Nevada, and Washington who have received the notification on their iPhone.
For instance, the notification from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services explains:
Thank you for using COVID-19 Exposure Notifications through the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services to protect yourself and your community.
Together we helped to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Nevada. Exposure Notifications prevented many cases during the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed people to take action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to keep the public safer.
As the public health emergency ends high levels of vaccination, widespread population immunity, and available treatments have significantly reduced the risk of severe COVID-19 disease, hospitalization and death.
Exposure notifications will be discontinued on May 11, 2023. Beginning on May 11 your mobile phone will no longer notify you if you were near someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Your privacy is protected, and no GPS location or personally identifiable information was collected or stored.
We will alert you if exposure notifications become available again in the future.
Apple and Google had high hopes for the Exposure Notification platform, but it failed to gain widespread traction due in large part to a scattered rollout by states and health agencies around the world. For example, in the United States, rather than creating a single contact tracing app, the decision to support Exposure Notifications was made by each state’s public health authority
Still, from a pure engineering and technological standpoint, the Exposure Notifications technology was incredibly impressive. Watching Apple and Google team up to develop the system in the early days of the pandemic in 2020 was incredibly inspiring.