SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — UCSF is now partnering with the state to train so called disease detectives or contact tracers.

These are the people who will reach out to the people who have been in close contact with those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

“In the absence of therapeutics and vaccines, it’s the best we can do to stop this,” Dr. George Rutherford said.

UCSF infectious disease specialist Dr. George Rutherford is principal investigator for the training program. He said with vaccines and treatments a ways away, and lock downs unpopular, the only way to slow the spread of the disease is to isolate those infected, and locate and briefly quarantine those who may have been exposed.

“What we are trying to do is catch people that may become infected and get them out of circulation when they first start getting infected when they are most infectious,” Dr. Rutherford said.

UCSF is hoping to train about 3,000 of these contact tracers a week through the beginning of July. Many of them are city, county and state employees who are currently not doing their regular job, like San Francisco librarian Yana de Brauwere.

“Most people are grateful we are reaching out and people are receptive even though the interview can take 10-40 minutes,” De Brauwere said.

De Brauwere and other contact tracers are also responsible for setting up testing for those exposed, and connecting them with resources should they need to isolate or quarantine.

“When this assignment came up, I was grateful because the goal in the library is to connect people with information and this is like that but the stakes are much higher,” De Brauwere said.

Medical experts say none of this will work unless people do what they are supposed to do, wash their hands, wear a mask and stay six feet away from each other. 

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