LA County Launches Contact Tracing App

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Six months after Los Angeles leaders announced drastic measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, those same leaders announced Wednesday a partnership with a mobile app that can anonymously notify a person if they came into close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, LA County has reported nearly 250,000 confirmed infections and over 6,000 deaths.

Unlike the early days of the pandemic, the county’s testing capacity has ramped up and infection control measures under the county’s health order can be found in just about every facet of the local economy.

County officials on Wednesday encouraged residents to take another step to slowing the spread of the virus and asked residents to download the Citizen SafePass mobile app.

The makers of the app have a separate app that sends users real-time notifications about safety alerts near them, but now the SafePass app will track a user’s Covid-19 health history. 

Through the first weeks of November, the app maker said they will also send users at-home tests if they test positive for the virus along with anonymously notifying those who may have been exposed.

County officials, along with the cities of LA, Long Beach and Pasadena, hope their residents will download the app and opt to share their information.

“We’re bringing this app to Los Angeles County because when it comes to stopping Covid in its tracks, information is power,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a Wednesday briefing. “The more that you know, the faster that you can act.”

Officials say the app will not replace the work of the county’s 2,600 contact tracers that call residents who tested positive for Covid-19 and attempt to track down their close contacts. But the app will go much further than any contact tracer could ever accomplish with a phone interview, as the app will use a phone’s Bluetooth to track a person’s interactions with others.

The SafePass app is also being touted as a good way to keep updated about other developments with infection control in a user’s neighborhood.

“This is a great way for them to stay informed, involved and aware,” LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.

Citizen CEO Andrew Frame said that roughly 1 million people in the county already use the standalone app.

On Wednesday, LA County reported 671 new confirmed infections and 61 new deaths with 936 people who are currently hospitalized. Aside from the reported deaths, all other metrics are trending down, according to health officials.

It’s too soon to say if the Labor Day weekend will result in a spike of cases similar to the jump in infections that likely flourished over the Memorial Day weekend.

Health officials relented on an outright ban on trick-or-treating as they advised the practice would be “not recommended” by the LA County Public Health Department.

On Tuesday officials said trick-or-treating would be banned along with large gatherings like haunted houses and festivals.

But at a Wednesday briefing, Ferrer said, “We are recommending that trick-or-treating not happen this year.”

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