On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the official statewide implementation of California COVID Notify, a digital system designed to notify users of exposure to COVID-19.
The system will launch Thursday and will enable Apple Inc. and Google smartphone users to choose to receive COVID-19 exposure alerts if they have come into close proximity with someone who has tested positive, according to a UC press release. The system was recently tested at seven UC campuses, and the state has asked the UC system to lead the expansion efforts.
“For UC Berkeley we are interested in partnering on this tool as it is another way we can help slow the spread of COVID,” said Tami Cate, University Health Services spokesperson, in an email. “The goal is to have as many UC Berkeley community members as possible use it as it is more effective with more users. Another goal is to reach those who potentially may have been exposed so we can offer testing and medical care.”
The technology uses Bluetooth technology to connect with other users nearby, according to Cate. Once the user opts in to the system, they are assigned a random identification number that is then shared to other users’ phones in the area.
When users get within six feet of each other, their respective identification numbers are saved on each others’ phones, Cate added in the email. The system maintains anonymity, as users’ identities and locations are not shared.
If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they will receive an option to input a verification code in the app, allowing them to choose whether they would like to share their test results with the system, according to Cate. She added in the email that any other user who has been within six feet for 15 minutes or more of the positive individual will receive a notification of possible exposure.
UCSF and UC San Diego launched a pilot program for the state in the fall, according to the press release. To broaden participation among a more diverse demographic, public health authorities then authorized five additional UC campuses to participate, including UC Berkeley.
During the pilot program, the UC system estimates that more than 20,000 people used this technology, according to the press release. When UC Berkeley launched the system, more than 11,000 people visited the site on the first day seeking more information, which is indicative of the campus community’s interest in this tool, according to Cate.
“With the rapid surge of COVID-19 cases, we need every tool possible to protect our communities,” said Carrie Byington, UC Health executive vice president and infectious diseases 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.”