UC Berkeley smartphone COVID-19 contact tracing program may expand statewide, officials say

BERKELEY, Calif. -- A pilot program that will provide COVID-19 contact tracing to members of the University of California, Berkeley community via smartphone may go statewide, university officials said Thursday.

UC Berkeley community members are being asked to enroll Monday when the program goes live. It alerts them if they have been exposed to the coronavirus and it's meant to help slow the spread of the virus.

The program launched at UC San Diego and UC San Francisco in September and has been valuable on those campuses.

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"California COVID Notify is a privacy-first approach to using smartphones to alert you when you have been exposed to COVID-19," UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost A. Paul Alivisatos said in a statement.

"It augments traditional contact tracing efforts and makes it possible to reach unknown contacts," the two officials added.

Other UC campuses in expanding the pilot will join UC Berkeley, and if the pilot is successful, it may be rolled out statewide.

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The program does not collect location information and all aspects of a person's participation are anonymous, Christ and Alivisatos said.

"No personally identifiable information is used or stored," they said.

They want to assure students they will not be disciplined because of any contact tracing effort, rather the health and safety of the campus community comes first.

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For people with an iPhone, downloading the latest iOS 14.2 update is necessary to participate. For Android users, nothing needs to be done to participate, according to university officials.

Campus community members are asked to look for a WarnMe alert on Monday with enrollment information.

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