Health Life

Smartphone COVID-19 exposure alert system signs up 4 million Californians

by Charles T. Clark

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

California’s smartphone-based COVID-19 exposure alert system had racked up 4 million sign-ups by Friday afternoon, according to the state Department of Public Health, but needs more residents to opt in to be effective.

The system, dubbed CA Notify, officially launched Thursday and builds off of traditional contact tracing methods by sending smartphone alerts to people who’ve spent prolonged time with someone who later tests positive for the novel .

Public health officials hope the tool will help slow the spread of the virus by providing people with timely information so they can self-isolate and get tested for the disease.

However, the system still needs a lot more of California’s 39.5 million residents to opt in, officials said. It launched as coronavirus cases are surging throughout the state.

On Saturday, San Diego County reported 2,490 new positive cases and 14 additional deaths.

The surge continues to stretch ICU capacity thin.

On Saturday, the California Department of Public Health said the available ICU capacity in the entire Southern California region was just 5.3%, and in the San Joaquin Valley region, officials reported there is no ICU capacity left.

San Diego County officials reported Saturday that 84% of ICU beds were full, a day after warning that the remaining open beds did not have enough staff available to maintain state-mandated nurse-patient ratios.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department reported a new outbreak in a county jail Friday night, with 54 inmates at the South Bay Detention Facility testing positive for the novel coronavirus, according to a news release. That’s in addition to the 370 confirmed cases among inmates in the county’s jails since the pandemic began.

The Sheriff’s Department said it’s taking additional steps to increase social distancing following the

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Improving outcomes for African American women with breast cancer

Worta McCaskill-Stevens, M.D., M.S., has spent much of her career advancing research that supports women with breast cancer, and the inclusion of underrepresented and underserved populations in clinical trials.

At the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr. McCaskill-Stevens explores how race impacts cancer outcomes, especially in African American women, who are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.   

As part of her work, Dr. McCaskill-Stevens helps oversee NCI breast cancer studies throughout the country. Most recently, she and her team at NCI helped launch a nationwide screening trial for breast cancer patients. They hope to better understand whether 3D mammography is better at diagnosing advanced breast cancers than the current 2D technology.

Why is this new screening trial so important? 

We haven’t had a screening trial for decades. Women are being asked whether they want to have a new 3D mammogram instead of the older 2D one. We don’t have the evidence that the more expensive [3D] technology is really better. This trial will help women make more informed decisions. It will look at whether 3D mammograms are better than 2D ones at finding advanced, life-threatening cancers over five years of screening. The trial will also provide us with more data to compare the risks of the two technologies. This includes whether a 3D mammogram’s more complete view of the breast results in fewer or more false positives [when results say there is cancer when there actually isn’t] than 2D does. If there’s no difference, there would be limited data to support using the more costly screening procedure. 

Why are there continued differences among racial groups in breast cancer outcomes?

The racial disparity in terms of breast cancer death is continuing. African American women are about 40% more likely to die from breast cancer compared with white