California's departments of Public Health and Technology announced this week that they plan to expand the pilot of a mobile app designed by Google and Apple that notifies a user when they have been exposed to someone infected with the coronavirus.
The state rolled out the pilot project in mid-September at the University of California's campuses in San Diego and San Francisco. Now, the project will expand to include UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside, according to state officials.
"Extending the pilot project allows us to reach a larger and more diverse pool of users to further evaluate the technology's potential to help California slow the spread of COVID-19," said Dr. Erica Pan, the state's interim public health officer.
The app, called CA Notify, uses Bluetooth technology to notify users who are nearing someone who has tested positive for the virus, according to the CDPH. CA Notify users must voluntarily activate the app, which does not reveal the identity or precise location of the coronavirus-positive user. The app also does not collect, store or transmit identifying user information, according to the CDPH.
In addition to schools in the UC system, CA Notify is also being tested at universities in Colorado, Nevada, Washington and Oregon - the members of the Western States Pact, along with California.
About 15,000 users at UC San Diego and 5,000 users at UCSF are now using CA Notify, according to the CDPH, representing about half the on-campus communities of both schools. State officials have touted the app's potential to help slow the virus' spread and streamline contact tracing efforts once someone does test positive.
"The more people who use the application, the slower the virus will spread," said Dr. Christopher Longhurst, UCSD Health's chief information officer. "By expanding into additional geographical areas, we can benefit more of the full population," Longhurst continued. "The big picture is a safer California for everyone."