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STOCKTON — City and county officials Monday announced a first-in-the-nation partnership with app maker Citizen to introduce Citizen SafePass for smartphones, hoping to strengthen San Joaquin County’s fight against COVID-19.

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs and San Joaquin County Health Director Greg Diederich urged every resident to download the free Citizen mobile app as soon as possible so they can be notified immediately if they come into contact with someone who tests positive for COVID.

San Joaquin County residents can participate by downloading Citizen from the App Store or Google Play.

“As the pandemic continues to grow rapidly in the U.S., it’s clear that COVID-19 is an issue we have to live with for some time,” Citizen founder and CEO Andrew Frame said during a joint virtual news conference with Tubbs and Diederich.

“We believe SafePass can play an essential role in slowing the spread of the virus and we need to partner with innovators like Mayor Tubbs and cities like Stockton to help make them the safest communities in America,” Frame said.

Tubbs expressed unbridled support for the app, hoping to get as many of the about 750,000 county residents as possible signed up as soon as possible in order to reach critical mass. He described Stockton as a “hot zone” in California for COVID, with just over 15,000 positive cases and 269 deaths countywide reported Monday by Public Health Services.

“We have to use every tool at our disposal to ensure we keep our businesses open,” Tubbs said, describing this period as “unprecedented” in the city’s history.

“I’m excited that Stockton will be the first community in the nation to partner with SafePass, an easy-to-use feature within the Citizen mobile app that allows users to be notified if they have been exposed to COVID-19.”

The app includes contact tracing and potential exposure notifications alongside day-to-day symptom tracking. Also, any resident of San Joaquin County can order a free at-home test if they receive a potential exposure notification on the app. Or they can also use the app to find the closest testing location.

SafePass is part of the Citizen app. To enable contact tracing, iOS users download Citizen’s add-on contact tracing app, SafeTrace, which enables their phone to use Bluetooth to anonymously track with whom they’ve been in close proximity and whether they’ve been potentially exposed to the virus.

If a user has had meaningful contact — five minutes or longer — with somebody who later tests positive for COVID-19, they will receive a notification to get tested. If the user tests positive, anyone they’ve been in contact with recently will be notified.

“Contact tracing is a critical and proven component in containing the spread of infectious diseases,” said Diederich with Health Care Services.

“The data from digital tools Citizen has created can be hugely helpful in aiding the efforts of our manual contact tracers. It’s critical that San Joaquin residents participate in the program to help slow the spread of the virus and more quickly return to normal life.”

Contact tracing is what public health officials employ to identify people who have had contact with an infected person and notify them. Traditional contact tracing is an on-the-ground, labor and time-intensive manual process. By applying technology and giving individuals information about their everyday movements, Citizen can amplify traditional contract tracing efforts and slow the spread of COVID-19.

It was emphasized that all data in SafePass is kept anonymous and secure and will be automatically deleted after 30 days. None of the data is sold or shared. Use of the Citizen app is free and strictly on an opt-in basis.

Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 or Follow him on Twitter @JoeGoldeen.

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