LA city, county announce partnership with mobile app to improve COVID-19 contact tracing

Los Angeles city and county are partnering with the Citizen mobile app to provide new methods for faster coronavirus contact tracing and notifications about possible exposure. staff KABC logo
Thursday, September 10, 2020
LA city, county in partnership with mobile app for COVID-19 contact tracing
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger discusses a new mobile app that will help with COVID-19 contact tracing in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles city and county are partnering with a mobile app company to provide new methods for faster coronavirus contact tracing and notifications about possible exposure.

The new Citizen SafePass app provides a range of COVID-19 services and information, particularly contact tracing.

The app notifies users if they may have been exposed to a person who tested positive for the virus. It provides the information anonymously, without releasing the identity of the person who tested positive.

"We're bringing this app to Los Angeles County because when it comes to stopping COVID in its tracks, information is power," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "The more you know the faster you can act and the more lives you can save."

The app, which can be downloaded from the Apple and Google Play stores, asks users to download the results of their coronavirus tests. If they tested positive, the app will use location tracking to notify other app users who may have recently been in the physical vicinity of the person who tested positive, without sharing that person's name.

Participation and location tracking is voluntary. Personal information is encrypted and not shared with other users.

The cities of Long Beach and Pasadena, which maintain their own health departments, are also participating in the partnership.

Garcetti said there are already an estimated 1 million users of the Citizen app and he is encouraging them to now also start using the SafePass feature to help improve the county's contact tracing abilities.

Other features of the app include helping you get home testing kits at no cost and providing information about coronavirus rates in your neighborhood.

Kathryn Barger, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said the county currently has 2,600 people working as contact tracers. They've conducted roughly 195,000 interviews with people who have tested positive and 53,000 interviews with their contacts. But using the app will greatly increase that ability, she said.

"SafePass will serve as another tool in our toolbox to help collect and share information quickly and efficiently," Barger said.

The announcement was made as the county reports nearly a quarter-million coronavirus cases and more than 6,000 deaths.