Californians can opt in to receive notifications to let them know if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus starting Thursday.

The new digital tool announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this week is meant to help reduce the spread of the virus as the state deals with an alarming, unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

The tool was developed with Google and Apple and doesn’t collect device locations. Instead, it uses Bluetooth technology to exchange random codes between phones without revealing users’ identities or locations, state officials said.

It only works when people voluntarily activate CA Notify on their phones and keep their Bluetooth on. 

Californians may start receiving alerts from their phones that the feature is available starting Thursday, officials said.

If a CA Notify user tests positive for the coronavirus, they will receive a verification code to enter into the app, if they choose. This will trigger notifications to all other app users who have been been within 6 feet of the infected person for at least 15 minutes in the previous two weeks.

The code comes from the California Department of Public Health at 855-976-8462 after a person tests positive.

Residents can enable CA Notify in their iPhone settings, or on Android phones by downloading the app from the Google Play Store.

How iPhone users can opt in to CA Notify.

“Every day that is saved in alerting others of a possible exposure, is a day that a possibly infectious person can begin self-quarantine and reduce the spread,” Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a news release.

The tool was previously piloted by students and faculty at UC San Diego and the UC San Francisco in September, and then expanded to include five other UC campuses in mid-November.

UC estimates more than 250,000 people are using the technology as part of the pilot.

“The process is private, anonymous and secure, and is one of the many tools in the state’s data-driven approach to help reduce the spread,” Newsom said.

More information about CA Notify can be found here.

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By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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