California Rolls Out a Virus Exposure Alert Tool. Heres How It Works – NBC Bay Area

California is rolling out a voluntary smartphone tool designed to alert people if they have spent time near someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The rollout of CA Notify on Thursday comes as the nation’s most populous state grapples with rising cases and hospitalizations nine months after it became the first state to introduce sweeping restrictions due to the pandemic. More than 80 percent of the state’s residents are under orders not to leave their homes for at least the next three weeks except for essential purposes.

Many residents will get a notification Thursday inviting them to participate. The more phones in the system, the better the system will work.

Here’s what to know about the mobile app.

  • The tool doesn’t track people’s identities or locations but uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect when two phones are within 6 feet of each other for at least 15 minutes, officials said.
  • Californians will be able to activate the tool in their iPhone settings — make sure you’re using version 13.7 or later — or on Android phones by downloading the CA Notify app from the Google Play store.
  • The encounters are temporarily logged in a way that doesn’t reveal a person’s identity or geographic location.
  • If people who have activated the technology test positive for the virus, they get a verification code from the California Department of Public Health and can use that to send an anonymous alert to other participating phone users they might have exposed over the past 14 days.
  •  How quickly you receive the notification depends on when the other person received a positive result and how quickly they consented to activate notifications in CA Notify.
  • Nearly 20 states already have apps based on Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification technology. In California, CA Notify was part of a pilot program at seven University of California campuses.