Smartphone program for alerts on potential COVID-19 exposure expands to UCLA

University of California Health has announced that UCLA is one of seven campuses statewide using smartphone technology to notify users if they have a high risk of COVID-19 exposure.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- University of California Health has announced that UCLA is one of seven campuses statewide using smartphone technology to notify users if they have a high risk of COVID-19 exposure.

The program, first rolled out in September at UC San Diego and UC San Francisco in a partnership with the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Technology, is aimed at students, faculty and staff.

Along with UCLA, UC Riverside, UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara campuses have now signed on to participate in the program beginning mid-month.

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"What started six weeks ago with two UC campuses has now grown to the majority of UC campuses,'' said Dr. Carrie Byington, executive vice president of UC Health. "Applying this type of innovation to a practical use is part of our mission to improve the health of the people of California. This demonstrates the commitment across the university to battling COVID-19 in collaboration with the state of California.''

According to the university system, the Google/Apple Exposure Notification technology does not collect location data from any device and will never share user identities. The program is voluntary and permits users to receive automatic smartphone notifications of a potential exposure to other enrolled users diagnosed with COVID-19, regardless of whether the users know each other.

The technology is intended to supplement the work of human contact tracers and curb viral spread.

To protect privacy, users decide whether they want to share a verified positive test result with the app and determine whether they want to share that with other users. State and university epidemiologists have been reviewing results since mid-September to determine how to optimize the smartphone-based technology.

"We are pleased that the initial launch of the program was well received by students and employees at our first two participating campuses,'' said Dr. Christopher Longhurst, chief information officer for UC San Diego Health. "California is a state known for its innovation and that forward thinking applies to health as well. With even more people now eligible to use the exposure notification system, we will be able to see how we can use it as a powerful tool to slow the spread of the virus.''

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The technology uses Bluetooth to communicate with other Bluetooth-enabled devices nearby. When a person opts into using the notification system, the user's phone broadcasts a random identification number to other phones in the area. When phones come within six feet of each another, they log each other's IDs -- without names or locations attached.

An estimated 20,000 people have already utilized the software, according to UC officials.

If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, they can voluntarily enter a keycode indicating they received a positive test result. This approach will generate an anonymous alert to other users based on proximity and length of exposure.
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