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How Community-Based Contact Tracing Can Help Reduce California’s Coronavirus Numbers

Following a summertime surge , California is looking to contain COVID-19 outbreaks through targeted contact tracing in hotspot areas. A $63 million grant from Kaiser Permanente will go to the Public Health Institute to provide targeted, community-based contact tracing in areas hit hard by the virus. PHI President and CEO Mary Pittman comments on building trust for successful community outreach.

  • Capital Public Radio
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Following a summertime surge, California is looking to contain COVID-19 outbreaks through targeted contact tracing in hotspot areas. A $63 million grant from Kaiser Permanente will go to Oakland-based Public Health Institute (PHI) to provide targeted, community-based contact tracing in areas hit hard by the virus.

The goal is to recruit contact tracers to work directly in their own communities, said Public Health Institute (PHI) President and CEO Mary Pittman.

“People who are from within a community and who know the community members are far more likely to get a response when they call and speak to people on the phone, so that’s our best effort.” Mary Pittman, PHI President and CEO.

PHI has launched similar initiatives in Oregon and Washington. Pittman points to a contact tracing effort in Clark County, Washington, as an example of the strategy’s success.

“It was a cluster in a fruit packaging plant where people predominantly spoke Spanish,” Pittman explained. “We were able to clear over 100 monolingual Spanish-speaking employees with an 85% contact rate, which allowed them to safely return to work.”

The key to successful tracing?

“Reaching out to community-based organizations — to trusted people in the community — to explain what we were trying to do.” Mary Pittman

Members of PHI support teams will also be based in health care clinics in order to get test results faster and begin immediately contact tracing when needed.

“By bringing the healthcare system together with the public health system — I always advocate for that partnership — we’re able to see that we can connect the dots between where people get their care and the local health department,” Pittman said.

Read the full story on Capital Public Radio.

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See more news coverage of the Kaiser partnership with PHI in the following media outlets:

Sacramento Bee

Orange County Register

San Francisco Business Times

KQED Radio Morning Report (begins at 6:45)

KALW Radio Morning Edition (begins at 0:55)


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