State launches CA Notify — a COVID-19 exposure notification tool all Californians are urged to add to their phones
Following the announcement by California Governor Gavin Newsom to expand CA Notify statewide, the California Department of Health and the California Department of Technology launched the digital tool designed to notify Californians of their possible exposure to COVID-19. The free, mobile technology is now available to all Californians and can be accessed on mobile devices.
Starting today, Thursday, Dec. 10, Californians can receive notifications informing them if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus so they can take immediate actions around quarantine and testing.
Californians with iPhones can enable CA Notify in their settings and Android phone users can download the CA Notify app from the Google Play Store to immediately start receiving exposure alerts on their phones. Use of the technology is completely voluntary, private and secure. CA Notify does not collect the location of a phone or individual to detect exposure, and it does not share a user’s identity. Californians opt in to use the tool and may to opt out at any time.
“We want all Californians to add their phone to the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 because the tool works best when more people sign up,” said Dr. Erica Pan, Acting State Public Health Officer. “Combined with other actions like physical distancing and wearing masks, CA Notify helps Californians anonymously keep themselves, their loved ones, and their communities safe.”
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. When someone is tested for COVID-19, they will receive a text message from (855) 976-8462. This text will remind CA Notify users who receive a positive test result from a provider or laboratory to enter their verification code into their phone using CA Notify. Any other CA Notify users who were within six feet of the COVID-19 positive individual for 15 minutes or more when that person was most likely to be infectious will get an anonymous notification of possible exposure.
“The technology is 100 percent voluntary and secure and provides Californians immediate information and links to resources when they’ve been exposed to COVID-19,” said Amy Tong, Director of CDT. “We are proud the Golden State is making this innovative tool available statewide to encourage more Californians to do their part to keep others safe.”
The state launched a pilot in September for students, staff, and faculty at UC San Diego and UC San Francisco and expanded it to include five other UC campuses in mid-November. The privacy-first focus of CA Notify does not allow the state to know how many people opted into the system, but the UC system estimates more than 250,000 individuals are utilizing the technology as part of the pilot. CA Notify has helped identify exposed individuals early, allowing them to quickly quarantine and reduce virus transmission. The CA Notify pilot has been successfully evaluated, 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.”
CA Notify is not a contact tracing app but augments the contact tracing process by issuing exposure notifications to people you may not know. Contact tracing identifies the close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and contact tracers reach those individuals by phone, email, and text. CA Notify does not track or trace information about the people you are in contact with and does not collect or exchange any personal information.
Visit CANotify.ca.gov to learn more about how CA Notify works.