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Santa Clara County’s effort to recruit more contact tracers in fight against COVID-19

Bay Area

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) – Testing for COVID-19 is a key indicator for opening the economy. 

Another indicator is contact tracing or tracking down those people who may have had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, says the county’s contact tracing expansion lead, Evelyn Ho.

“This is how we address cases of measles, tuberculosis. We find a case, we isolate them, we find out their contacts and we prevent them from transmitting the disease to other people,” Ho said. 

The 50 or so contact tracers working right now amount to about 2.6 tracers per 100,000 people, well short of the state benchmark of 15 tracers per 100,000 people but there are another 75 people in training and recruiting is in high gear.

“We are looking to identify rapidly county employees who might be redirected and reassigned to support this effort so that where there are county who have extra capacity and can support this effort we are working actively to identify them. We’re also reaching out to community volunteers and developing strategic partnerships for public volunteering,” Ho said. 

Contact tracing is a first line of defense against the spread of COVID-19. 

Often by phone, contact tracers track down and try to persuade exposed people to quarantine or seek medical help. 

People can be suspicious or uncooperative. Success requires a special set of skills.

“To help illicit sensitive information, to help build rapport and trust and we are also working to make sure our work force has members of our diverse community to ensure that there is cultural understanding in addition to language capacity to build that trust so that people are willing to see their roles as individuals as a case or contact to be part of the solution,” Ho said. 

Ho says contact tracing is bread and butter public health and will continue to prevent the spread of infection long after the shelter order is lifted.

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