Los Angeles city and county leaders Wednesday announced a partnership with the developer of the popular Citizen app for a similar feature for COVID-19 contact tracing, intended to slow the spread of the virus.
The SafePass app uses a phone’s built-in Bluetooth capabilities to anonymously track people who may have been near someone who recently tested positive for the virus.
People who test positive for the virus are asked to provide contact information to county health officials, which is kept anonymous, and if an individual has extended contact with somebody who later tests positive for COVID-19, they will receive a notification to be tested.
“The information gathered through the SafePass app will help us learn more about the virus and how it is spreading throughout our communities in the county,” Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger said.
“Everyone’s identity remains anonymous and all data is encrypted to ensure privacy and security.”
SafePass is available for download for free on iPhone or Android devices.
“Six months ago … we saw some of the toughest moments of our life, but one of the most important investments in our response has been widespread testing,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
“In addition to our innovative testing program, we’re working with the county to establish this contact tracing infrastructure … to complement the testing work and to track down those who may be infected and to help us get ahead of new outbreaks.”
Citizen CEO Andrew Frame, who joined various elected officials during the late Wednesday afternoon briefing, said the app requires a person to activate the tracing technology.
Even when people are notified that they’ve come in close contact with someone who tested positive, the user’s information is kept private.
“There remains a burning need for continuous steps and actions to contain COVID-19, and this is the ultimate test that has required an amalgamation between government, the leading medical experts of the world and leading technology platforms,” Frame said.
Frame said Citizen used a demo version of its contact tracing by asking people to opt in when the coronavirus first hit the U.S.
In one case, Frame said a woman who attended a protest in May in downtown Los Angeles was alerted two days later of her close proximity to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Frame said of the roughly 1 million people in Los Angeles County who use the app, about 3.5% opted to allow the demo contact tracing feature to be activated on their phones.
Garcetti also said the city will open a COVID-19 testing kiosk from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday thru Sunday at Union Station.
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