California announces smartphone tool to alert people when they are near someone who tested positive for COVID-19

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California Governor Gavin Newsom.

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — California is rolling out a voluntary smartphone tool to alert people if they spent time near someone who tests positive for the coronavirus as cases and hospitalizations soar throughout the state.

Newsom said the information is important as the state deals with a rising tide of COVID-19 cases. He said the state has averaged 25,000 new cases a day, over the past three days. Also, there are now more than 10,000 people hospitalized, which is up 72% from a few weeks ago. He said, at that rate, anyone should be able to understand why he put further COVID-19 safety restrictions in place.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the smartphone tool on Monday. People can opt in to use it starting Thursday.

Officials say the tool doesn’t track people’s identities or locations. It uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect when two phones are within 6 feet of each other for at least 15 minutes. Sixteen other states plus Guam and Washington, D.C. have made available the system co-created by Apple and Google. Most residents of those places aren’t using it.

Newsom admits the smartphone tool is only as good as people’s utilization of it. He believes it might do better in California because residents are innovative and like technology.

“We’re hoping here that will be enough to make that meaningful,” Newsom said.

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