“Tonight we are here together to roll out innovations,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday. “When it comes to stopping COVID in its tracks,” he said, “information is power.”
The mayor then went on to announce a new initiative with a private company called Citizen that would use the company’s app, installed on residents’ cell phones, to track their contacts and movements and alert them of any potential COVID exposure.
The app is called SafePass and it pledges to track your movements anonymously using Bluetooth technology.
From the SafePass website:
SafePass is your daily destination for COVID-related alerts and activity, including your exposure to people who tested positive, meaningful contact that increases your risk, test results, test locations, and symptom tracking. Enable contact tracing and know exactly when and where you got exposed to COVID-19.
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“Everyone’s information remains anonymous and encrypted,” said L.A. County Supervisor Katheryn Barger.
The company says that personal data is deleted after 30 days and within 24 hours after someone stops using the service. The SafePass website says that, “The only information ever shared is anonymized aggregate data to help identify COVID-19 hot spots.”
We’re partnering with @CitizenAppLA to provide our communities with the latest information about COVID cases. This effort is another tool to help us stay healthy, safe, and aware. pic.twitter.com/kzmfGds1WQ
— Supervisor Kathryn Barger (@kathrynbarger) September 10, 2020
The Citizen SafePass app launched in Los Angeles in early 2019. According to Citizen CEO Andrew Frame, about 1 million people in L.A. County now have the app. According to the company’s web site, 27% of New York City residents already use the app.
At the time of launch in 2019, the app was more about pushing information to consumers, rather than gathering it. It was explained that Citizen’s central operations team monitored a variety of publicly available information — such as police scanner chatter — and pushed out notifications to users within a certain radius of the incident.
Since then, the monitoring technology has been added and expanded to allow coronavirus contact tracing.
“It’s not a replacement for formal contact tracing,” said Garcetti.
The app can be downloaded at the Apple App Store or simply enabled if you use an Android device.
Garcetti also announced a new standalone coronavirus testing kiosk in union station in partnership with Curative testing and L.A. Metro. It will operate Wednesday through Sunday and can serve up to 500 people a day.
On Wednesday, L.A. County announced there had been a low 671 new cases of coronavirus reported and 61 additional deaths. A county health department statement warned that the high number of new deaths are from a backlog of reports received from over the weekend, and the low number of new cases reflect reduced testing due to the excessive heat.
Currently, there are 936 people who are confirmed cases currently hospitalized and 33% of these people are in the ICU.
While those numbers are low, Garcetti warned that flu season is on the way and SafePass could be an invaluable tool in combatting any new uptick.
Watch the mayor’s news conference below.