When stopping the spread of COVID-19, public health experts agreed that being able to find out through contact tracing which might have contracted the virus played an important role.
“This means that we will follow up with everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 so they know they have to isolate themselves,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the LA County Department of Public Health, “And we need to be able to deal with their close contacts, so that their close contacts know that they (must) quarantine themselves.”
This contact tracing allows public health officials to suppress the spread of COVID-19, prevent spikes in health care capacity and allow for modification of the home stay arrangement, which is why it has received so much attention from the state and local levels. Officials when California embarked on a plan to reopen its economy.
Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced that he has been working with the Universities of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, Los Angeles, to immediately begin training workers to track the spread of the virus throughout the state.
With the aim of building an army of 20,000 trackers in two months, the Newsom program hopes to contain the virus, because trained workers are then deployed to various countries throughout the state.
Much of this work can be done by phone, text, email and chat, while a new statewide database will help local health departments track infected people and their contacts as they travel through the state, according to California’s Department of Public Health officials.
That being said, LA. County, along with 22 of California’s 60 local health departments, actively tracked contacts who were exposed to those who tested positive for COVID-19, according to Newsom.
In fact, Ferrer said that about a quarter of the 4,000 County Health community employees had been tracking COVID-19 patients since before the “Safe at Home” order was put in place, including the positive results reported here in Santa Clarita Valley.
“We thank the governor for expanding capacity for all countries to have more resources to track contacts,” Ferrer said. “We are the biggest area. We have many cases. We will continue to need lots of resources, but we welcome the efforts of the governor and work very closely with the state’s Department of Public Health, which has been an extraordinary extraordinary partner through all this … And we are doing a very great job. “
The tracers have been divided into two teams: greater focus on following up on each positive COVID-19 test result, while others focus on investigating cases in institutional settings, such as skilled nursing homes, assisted living quarters and correctional facilities.
“Obviously, as we grow, we need more people,” Ferrer added. “A lot of people have been reassigned and have been trained, including some who come from other county departments, who are actually tracking contacts as we speak.”
With each positive outcome, the tracker interviewed them, identified who they interacted with, and then told the people that they needed to isolate or quarantine.
Ferrer estimates that tracers reach somewhere between 80% -85% of positive people. “When we didn’t reach people, it was because they didn’t receive our calls at all for a period of three days or we didn’t have good contact information.”
Before restrictions on home stay were imposed, trackers had to contact an average of eight people per positive result, which has now declined to an average of five per case since the order took effect, according to Ferrer.
“If you have 1,000 new cases a day, that’s 5,000 people who need to be contacted,” he said, then adding that he expects the number to rise again to eight when the restrictions are reduced. “We will also track information that helps us understand how effectively we as a shared country are slowing the spread of COVID-19, because we cannot have a surge in the number of cases and are comfortable with continuing to relax restrictions. “
However, Ferrer reminded residents that just because restrictions were reduced did not mean that the virus had disappeared, that it had not become more deadly or contagious.
“The virus is still out there acting in a way very similar to that which acted in March,” he said. “This is capable of infecting many people when people are in close contact with each other, and for some people, it can be very dangerous and even deadly. And, we must remember that information. ”