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App to help track COVID-19 exposure rolls out at UC Davis

The California COVID Notify app relies on Bluetooth keys shared between smartphones using Android or iOS operating systems.

DAVIS, Calif. — A group of University of California campuses is rolling out a new app that will notify users if they may have been in close proximity to someone with COVID-19.

The California COVID Notify app is being tested at UC Davis by students, faculty, and staff. The app relies on contact between phones, according to a press release from UC Davis. 

“Each of us must do all we can, and this app is one more tool at your disposal. I encourage our community to learn more about it as it alerts you of possible exposure and gives you the chance to make even better informed decisions,” Chancellor Gary S. May said.

California COVID Notify uses Exposure Notification Express mobile technology from Google and Apple. The technology relies on Bluetooth keys shared between smartphones using Android or iOS (Apple) operating systems, according to UC Davis.

Android users have to download the app. iOS users can activate it in their iPhone settings. 

"When another phone using the app is nearby, both phones will remember each other’s keys and the amount of time the phones are near each other — but not the users’ identities or locations, which are never collected," according to UC Davis. 

If a California COVID Notify user tests positive for the virus, they can voluntarily decide to input that information into the app, using a code provided by their participating health care provider. The system would then match up that user’s phone with close contacts it has had with other people’s phones over the last 14 days. Those users would be notified of their potential exposure.

The alerts come with instructions for next steps, which may include symptom monitoring, self-isolation, getting tested, or having users contact their public health departments.

David Lubarsky, vice chancellor of Human Health Sciences and CEO of UC Davis Health, said the app supplements contact tracing work and can dramatically reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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