County officials partner with Citizen to launch contact-tracing app

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L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and other government leaders announced Wednesday a partnership with mobile app Citizen to launch a new COVID-19 contact-tracing tool capable of sending users anonymous notifications if close contacts test positive. 

Citizen SafePass is related to the Citizen app that offers real-time 911 alerts and help from crisis responders. More than 5 million users now have the app, of which 1 million are based in L.A. County, according to CEO Andrew Frame. 

“Robust, efficient, and thorough contact tracing is critical to interrupt the ongoing transmission of COVID-19 and reduce community spread,” said Barger in a prepared statement. “The SafePass app is an innovative program that will serve as a valuable tool for Los Angeles County in our continued efforts to keep residents safe and move forward on our path to recovery and reopening.”

The app, which uses mobile Bluetooth, anonymously tracks users and close contacts. Users must opt-in on the tracking option to receive anonymous alerts if they come into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 14 days. Notifications also provide options for nearby testing sites. 

All data “is private, encrypted and is deleted after 30 days,” the company said on its websites. “And, if you decide to disable SafePass at any time, data will be deleted within 24 hours.” 

The new app will help supplement the county’s contact tracing, according to county officials. 

“Contact tracing relies on residents sharing with us key information to identify close contacts, and today we are adding additional capacity for our program through SafePass. This new tool allows everyone to share responsibility for protecting each other,” said Ferrer. 

The county currently has 2,600 individuals deployed as contact tracers and, to date, they have completed nearly 195,000 contact-tracing interviews with cases and 53,000 interviews with contacts. 

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