California Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a volunteer smartphone tool to alert people of potential exposure to the Coronavirus as cases rise, new restrictions are imposed and many people still say they will not heed calls to stay home.
The tool – which has been used on a trial basis at some public universities – does not track people’s identities or locations but rather uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect if the two phones have been within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of each other for at least 15 minutes, officials said.
California‘s 40 million residents can sign up for the system starting Thursday. When someone activates the technology with a positive test for the virus, that person will receive a verification code from state health officials that can be used to send an anonymous alert to other users who may have been exposed within the past 14 days.
“The more people participate in it, the more people participate, the more effective this program will be,” Newsom told reporters. “Hopefully there will be enough to make this meaningful.”
The technology comes as cases of coronavirus are rampant in California and more than 80% of the state’s residents issue orders not to leave their homes for at least three weeks except for essential items. Sixteen other states, plus Guam and Washington, D.C., have enabled the system jointly created by Apple and Google, even though most residents of those places don’t use it.
Andrew Neimer, a professor of public health at the University of California, Irvine, wondered how many residents would choose to subscribe due to privacy concerns and the value of the tool if they didn’t.
He said that people may find themselves paralyzed by a torrent of information and it is not clear what they will do with it – especially if they take a coronavirus test after receiving an alert and end up negative, only to receive another alert.
From a purely epidemiological perspective, assimilation is everything. If around 10% of people do that, it’s useless. ”Even if you get takers, it’s still unproven. Because then, what do you do? “
In the past two weeks, California has reported a quarter of a million cases of the virus. State data showed the average newly reported virus cases on Monday for seven days approached 22,000, a 50% increase from the previous week.
Newsom said more than 10,000 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, including more than 2,300 in intensive care.
The state’s 400 hospitals have a capacity of nearly 80%, said Carmella Cowell, president of the California Hospital Association, but there are hospitals in San Diego, Imperial and Los Angeles counties that have full ICUs. She said hospitals were being limited by staff shortages after a spike in virus cases around Halloween.
“Those numbers don’t yet include the Thanksgiving holiday, families are gathering a week or so in advance. We expect it to get worse before it gets better.
The numbers go back to California where they started 10 months ago with stay-at-home rules, but now fewer people are likely to adhere to them.
The Newsom Administration has issued stay-at-home rules to shut down restaurants, salons, and playgrounds in Southern California and a large area of the Central Valley agricultural region after more than 85% of intensive care units in those areas have been occupied. Five counties in the San Francisco Bay Area have voluntarily joined the rules regarding ICU capacity concerns, and restrictions there will continue until January 4, a week longer than the state’s schedule. Retailers including supermarkets and malls can work at 20% capacity.
The US Forest Service announced that it will shut down campgrounds in eight national forests in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley areas of the state in line with the state’s order, and said further closures are possible. The park said daily use of forests would be permitted.
“Camps, like other overnight accommodations, create opportunities for people from different families and communities to congregate,” said a statement from Randy Moore, the US Regional Forest Service for the Southwest Pacific Region, and their closure would reduce COVID-19 exposure to visitors and staff. Area.
Some business owners said they will keep their doors open and many law enforcement agencies say they will not enforce the rules and rely on people to voluntarily wear masks and practice physical distancing to protect themselves and their families. While the mayor of Orange County said he would not send deputies to enforce state laws regarding the virus, Santa Clara County recently asked firefighters to help ensure compliance in the area’s business activities.
Le Garcia Renoso, who owns a barbershop in Southern California, told the Press-Enterprise that it will remain open despite the recent request and is concerned that some salons might move underground to avoid detection.
“This will encourage people to go into their windows and secretly take agents,” she said.
Dr. Scott Morrow, the San Mateo County health official, said he will not follow the move of other Bay Area counties to enforce the latest order quickly. Morrow said he is not aware of the data showing that companies operating with already significant restrictions are driving the transmission of the virus, and that shutting them down could lead to more job losses and despair and drive more activities inland, leading to more coronavirus infections.
Morrow also said that many hospitals have yet to cancel elective procedures or take other steps to boost capacity. Although it is clear that staying home and wearing masks can help slow the spread of the virus, it is not clear that public health officials know how to urge community members to do so, he said.
“I appreciate that some of you believe I (or the government) have magical powers to change everyone’s behavior, but I assure you that (we) don’t do that,” Morrow wrote in a statement.
Currently open schools can continue to provide personalized guidance.
But Los Angeles School District, the nation’s second-largest district, announced on Monday that it was suspending all educational programs, childcare programs and conditioning programs for student athletes due to the record number of virus cases.
Starting Thursday, California residents will be able to activate the new “exposure notification” tool in their iPhone settings or on Android phones by downloading the CA Notify app from the Google Play Store. Many residents will receive a notification inviting them to participate.
Officials said the confrontations are being temporarily recorded in a way that does not reveal the person’s identity or geographic location.