Californians can now opt in to get alerts if they are exposed to someone with positive coronavirus test

Californians can opt in to receive notifications to let them know if they were exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus starting Thursday.

The new digital tool announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this week is meant to help reduce the spread of the virus as the state deals with an alarming, unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

It became available the week California saw record coronavirus infection numbers and the state’s regional stay-at-home order went into effect, now affecting some three-quarters of the state’s 40 million residents.

The notification tool was developed with Google and Apple and it doesn’t collect device locations. Instead, it uses Bluetooth technology to exchange random codes between phones without revealing users’ identities or locations, state officials said.

It only works when people voluntarily activate CA Notify on their phones and keep their Bluetooth on. 

Californians may start receiving alerts from their phones that the feature is available starting Thursday, officials said.

If a CA Notify user tests positive for the coronavirus, they will receive a verification code to enter into the tool, if they choose. This will trigger notifications to all other users who have been been within 6 feet of the infected person for at least 15 minutes in the previous two weeks.

The code will come from California Department of Public Health number 855-976-8462 after a person tests positive.

“Your positive test result will only result in Exposure Notifications if you consent to notify others. Even then, your personal information is not collected, stored or shared by the exposure notification system,” the CA Notify website reads.

Residents can enable CA Notify in their iPhone settings, or on Android phones by downloading the app from the Google Play Store.

How iPhone users can opt in to CA Notify.

“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,” Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a news release.

The tool was previously piloted by students and faculty at UC San Diego and the UC San Francisco in September, and then expanded to include five other UC campuses in mid-November.

UC estimates more than 250,000 people are using the technology as part of the pilot.

“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,” Newsom said.

More information about CA Notify can be found here.

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