California Launches App to Alert Users of Potential COVID-19 Exposure

The University of California pilot version of CA Notify. | Courtesy photo

CA Notify, a new opt-in app that will alert people of potential exposure to COVID-19, will launch Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday morning.

Starting Thursday, iPhone users will have the option to enable CA Notify in their settings. Android users will need to download the app from the Google Play store.

According to a statement from the governor’s office, the app “protects privacy and security.” The app does not gather users’ name, contact information, location or the identity of people they meet.

When individuals voluntarily activate CA Notify, the tool uses Bluetooth technology to exchange random codes between phones without revealing the user’s identity or location. If a CA Notify user tests positive for COVID-19, they will receive a verification code to plug into the app, if they choose. Any other CA Notify users who have been within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more of the COVID-19 positive individual will get an anonymous notification of possible exposure.

CA Notify will accelerate how quickly people get notified of a possible COVID-19 exposure so they can quarantine and get tested. Users who have tested positive for COVID-19 will get a text from the California Department of Public Health at (855) 976-8462 with a code which they can enter into CA Notify triggering an alert to phones of people who may have been exposed in the previous 14 days.

“When combined with other actions like wearing masks and physical distancing, CA Notify can help curb the transmission of COVID-19,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “Every day that is saved in alerting others of a possible exposure, is a day that a possibly infectious person can begin self-quarantine and reduce the spread. This technology is another way for Californians to take proactive steps to keep themselves, their loved ones and their communities safe.”

The state launched a pilot in September for students, staff and faculty at UC San Diego and UC San Francisco and expanded to include five other UC campuses in mid-November. Due to privacy reasons the exact number of users are unknown, but UC estimates more than 250,000 people are utilizing this technology as part of the pilot.

“Our pilot experience starting at UC San Diego and expanding to other UC campuses showed this technology was effective in identifying exposed individuals early for quarantine and testing, and helping keep our communities as safe as possible,” said Christopher Longhurst, MD, chief information officer of UC San Diego Health.

CA Notify is completely voluntary and free.

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December 7, 2020

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