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California rolls out new app to alert you of potential COVID-19 exposure

As California’s latest coronavirus surge spreads at a record-setting pace, state officials on Monday unveiled a new cell phone app aimed at helping Californians track their exposure to the virus.

Starting Thursday, Californians will be able to opt into the new app — dubbed CA Notify — and receive notifications on their cell phones informing them if they have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for the virus.

California joins more than a dozen states, including New York, Michigan and Washington, to launch exposure notification apps in recent months.

“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,” Newsom said in a news release. “… 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.”

The tool, which uses Bluetooth technology to exchange random codes between phones, was developed in partnership with Google and Apple and piloted on the campuses of the University California, San Diego and the University of California, San Francisco. State officials vow that the tool protects users’ data privacy and does not reveal a user’s identity or location.

If a person tests positive for COVID-19, the California Department of Public Health will send a text with a verification code that the person will then need to plug into the CA Notify app. Once the code is entered, it will trigger an alert through the CA Notify app to the phones of people who may have been within 6 feet of that individual for 15 minutes or more in the past 14 days.

State officials say the new app will help curb the alarming rate of spread of COVID-19 across California by giving residents more timely information about exposure in order to make more responsible decisions around quarantine and testing.

“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,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a news release. “This technology is another way for Californians to take proactive steps to keep themselves, their loved ones and their communities safe.”

Cases and hospitalizations have spiked at an alarming rate in California since the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. For the first time, the state is averaging 20,000 cases per day over the past week, a rate five times higher than at the start of November. More Californians are hospitalized with COVID-19 than ever before, numbering nearly 10,000, as of Saturday, with more than 2,200 in the ICU, according to the latest data from the state.

As of Monday, the rate of tests coming back with positive results over the past seven days is average 10.7% — more than double the positivity rate seen just one month ago.

In order to receive notifications, Californians must download the CA Notify app from the Google Play Store and allow notifications of the app through the phone settings.

This story will be updated. 

Source: Orange County Register

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