California unveils smartphone tool to trace virus cases

Virus Outbreak California
Posted at 11:20 AM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 00:32:43-05

California is rolling out a voluntary smartphone tool to alert people if they spent time near someone who tests positive for the coronavirus as cases and hospitalizations soar throughout the state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the tool on Monday.

People can opt in to use it starting Thursday, Dec. 10.

Officials say CA Notify doesn’t track people’s identities or locations. It uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect when two phones are within 6 feet of each other for at least 15 minutes.

If a CA Notify user tests positive for COVID-19, they will receive a text from the California Department of Public Health with a code. Once the code is entered into the CA Notify app, it will trigger an alert to other CA Notify users who may have been exposed in the previous 14 days.

The system was co-created by Apple and Google. UC San Diego and UC San Francisco were also involved in piloting the program.

Sixteen other states plus Guam and Washington, D.C. have made the app available to residents, but most people in those places aren’t using it.

The app will be available free for iPhone and Android smartphones. Californians may receive alerts on their phones saying the app is available this Thursday.