Information provided by the State of California
In a press briefing Dec. 7, and in a follow-up press release Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the wide launch of CA Notify, a new digital tool intended to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
Starting Dec. 10, Californians can opt in to receive COVID-19 notifications informing them if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus. CA Notify is a digital tool that protects privacy and security – it does not collect device location to detect exposure and does not share a user’s identity, according to the release. The tool was developed in partnership with Google and Apple and piloted with the help of the University California, San Diego and the University of California, San Francisco.
“Throughout this pandemic we have tapped California’s talent pool to fight this virus and that includes working with tech innovators like Apple and Google,” said Newsom. “CA Notify will help slow the spread by alerting those who opt in to receive an alert if they’ve come into contact with someone who has tested positive. The process is private, anonymous and secure, and is one of the many tools in the state’s data-driven approach to help reduce the spread.”
Starting Dec. 10, Californians can enable CA Notify in their iPhone settings or on Android phones by downloading the CA notify app from the Google Play Store.
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, giving people the information they need to make responsible decisions around quarantine and testing. 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 Dr. 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. Given the privacy-first focus of CA Notify, we do not know how many students, faculty, staff and patients have enabled CA Notify, but UC estimates more than 250,000 people are utilizing this technology as part of the pilot. CA Notify has helped identify exposed individuals early, allowing them to quickly quarantine and reduce the transmission of the virus. The performance and privacy of CA Notify has been successfully evaluated through the pilot project and similar programs have been launched in other states.
“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. “This free and reliable smartphone technology can help all Californians. 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.”
“With the rapid surge of COVID-19 cases, we need every tool possible to protect our communities. We applaud the state for expanding this scalable system so all people living in California have another means of being informed of potential exposures as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Carrie L. Byington, Executive Vice President of University of California Health and an infectious disease expert. “We are glad that University of California Health could be a resource for the pilot testing and now for the management of the expansion.”
CA Notify is completely voluntary and free, and is designed to protect your privacy. It does not use device location to detect exposures and does not share your identity to other users. And individuals can securely report if they test positive, so that others can be notified of exposure without indicating their identity.