California will make a mobile app available to the public this week that will notify users when they encounter someone who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this week.
The CA Notify app, developed by Apple and Google, uses Bluetooth technology to notify users who are nearing someone who has tested positive for the virus.
People who test positive for the virus will receive a verification code to enter into the app. Other app users will then be anonymously notified if they have been within 6 feet of the infected user for at least 15 minutes.
App users must voluntarily activate the app, according to the California Department of Public Health, and it does not show the coronavirus-positive user's identity or exact location, nor does it collect, store or transmit identifying user information.
“This is not contact tracing; this is notification technology,” Newsom said Monday during a briefing on the pandemic. “You can choose to participate in leveraging this technology to allow people that you have been in contact with or have been in contact with you to be notified of potential exposure.”
CA Notify will become available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store on Thursday after it was piloted for several months at seven UC campuses.
The app technology was also tested at universities in Colorado, Nevada, Washington and Oregon—the members of the Western States Pact, along with California.
UC officials estimate that some 250,000 students, faculty and staff at the seven campuses involved in the pilot are using the app.
According to Newsom, more than 60 positive test verification codes have been issued to people at the universities over the last eight weeks.
“The more people that participate in it, the more that opt-in, the more effective this program can be,” Newsom said. “Another tool in our toolkit in terms of impacting the spread and transmission rate of this virus.”
Newsom said he did not expect millions of state residents to opt into using the app, noting that he’s cognizant of the paltry participation rates in other states’ exposure apps.
Other countries, like New Zealand, launched similar app technology months ago, which has helped them curb the virus’ spread.
“This is only as good as people's adaptation and utilization,” he said.
UC and state health officials have boasted of CA Notify’s potential to support state and local test and trace efforts as the state experiences a winter surge in new cases.
“This free and reliable smartphone technology can help all Californians,” said Dr. Christopher Longhurst, a spokesman for UC San Diego Health. “As we enter a new, and hopefully final, surge in the pandemic, now more than ever is the time to put every possible tool to use to slow the spread of the virus.”