“We’re here together tonight to launch innovations,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday. “When it comes to stopping COVID on its trail,” he said, “information is power.”
The mayor then announced a new initiative with a private company called Citizen that would use the company’s app, installed on residents’ cell phones, to monitor their contacts and movements and alert them of any potential exposure to COVID.
The app is called SafePass and is committed to tracking your movements anonymously using Bluetooth technology.
From the SafePass website:
SafePass is your daily destination for COVID-related alerts and activities, including exposure to people who tested positive, significant contact that increases risk, test results, test locations, and symptom monitoring. Enable contact tracking and find out exactly when and where you were exposed to COVID-1
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“Everyone’s information remains anonymous and encrypted,” said the L.A. County supervisor. Katheryn Barger.
The company claims that personal data is deleted after 30 days and within 24 hours after someone stops using the service. The SafePass website states that: “The only information ever shared is anonymous aggregate data to help identify COVID-19 hot spots.”
We are cooperating with @CitizenAppLA to provide our communities with the latest information on COVID cases. This effort is another tool that helps us stay healthy, safe and aware. pic.twitter.com/kzmfGds1WQ
– Supervisor Kathryn Barger (@kathrynbarger) September 10, 2020
The Citizen SafePass app was launched in Los Angeles in early 2019. According to Andrew Frame, CEO of Citizen, around 1 million people in Los Angeles County now own the app. According to the company’s website, 27% of New York City residents already use the app.
At the time of launch in 2019, the app was aimed more at providing information to consumers, rather than collecting it. It was explained that Citizen’s central operations team monitored a variety of publicly available information, such as police scanner chatter, and sent notifications to users within a certain radius of the incident.
Since then, tracking technology has been added and expanded to enable tracking of coronavirus contacts.
“It’s not a substitute for formal contact tracing,” Garcetti said.
The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or simply enabled if you are using an Android device.
Garcetti also announced a new standalone coronavirus testing kiosk at Union station, in collaboration with Curative testing and L.A. Meter. It will operate from Wednesday to Sunday and can serve up to 500 people per day.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles County announced that 671 new coronavirus cases and 61 additional deaths had been reported. A county health department statement warned that the high number of new deaths stems from a backlog of reports received over the weekend, and the low number of new cases reflects reduced testing due to excessive heat.
Currently, there are 936 people who are confirmed cases currently hospitalized and 33% of these people are in intensive care.
Although these numbers are low, Garcetti warned that flu season is on the way and SafePass could be an invaluable tool to combat any new hikes.
Watch the mayor’s press conference below.