Press Release

Kaiser Permanente and the Public Health Institute Partner on Clinical Initiative to Support California COVID-19 Contact Tracing

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Brandie Campbell

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PHI receives $63 million support to deploy contact tracing staff in targeted California clinics

Oakland, CA—Today Governor Gavin Newsom announced that Kaiser Permanente has committed $63 million in grant funding to the Public Health Institute (PHI) to strengthen and support California’s contact tracing efforts in clinical settings. PHI’s Tracing Health program, which has successfully deployed contact tracing teams in Oregon and Washington, will pivot to California, where they will embed teams into clinics based in high-need and targeted communities. 

PHI’s Tracing Health program will hire, train and deploy approximately 500 full-time, culturally and linguistically competent clinically based team members. Collectively, they will be able to contact up to 5,500 people per day.

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“Kaiser Permanente’s support will allow us to initiate a rapid response network that can slow the spread of COVID-19. With contact tracing teams based right within a clinic, we can offer support to people from the moment they realize they may have been exposed,” said Mary Pittman, DrPH, president and CEO of PHI. “And because we are focusing on hiring from within the community, they’ll be getting information and resources from people they trust, in the language they are most comfortable speaking.”

Over half of PHI’s current contract tracers are bi- or multi-lingual, and most come from the communities they serve. PHI will use this same approach in California. The Kaiser/PHI initiative will recruit from within communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, providing them with immediate jobs and income in the short term, and providing job training and skills to guide them into health sector and other career paths after the initiative has ended. 


Watch: Getting the Support to Stay Home

One of the most critical parts about contact tracing, says PHI’s Marta Induni, is getting the support—from grocery delivery to rental assistance—that makes it possible to stay home if you need to, to protect yourself and your community. Find out how her program does that. Watch the videos and read the full interview. Watch Marta talk about how Tracing Health approaches health equity.

Listen: COVID in Farm Worker Communities

Dra. Marta Induni, directora del PHI programa de Tracing Health, habla sobre los esfuerzos en condados rurales de los estados de Washington y Oregón para aumentar el rastreo de contactos de Covid en comunidades de trabajadores agrícolas y migrantes, en Radio Bilingüe. Escuche.

Learn more about Tracing Health

Tracing Health was launched in response to COVID-19. Services include contact tracing and scientific support to counties and local health departments. Highly-trained employees counsel contacts and connect them to community resources for successful implementation of quarantine. Learn more and see media coverage on Tracing Health’s work..

With its micro-team approach, Tracing Health has shown it can adapt to the unique needs of communities and quickly pivot teams to contain virus hotspots. In Clark County, Washington, Tracing Health helped quell one of the Northwest area’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak clusters at an area fruit packaging plant. Within one week its contact tracers cleared over 100 predominantly monolingual Spanish-speaking employees, with an 85% contact rate, allowing them to safely return to work and the plant to reopen. 

Tracing Health emphasizes connecting individuals who need to stay home with existing resources, such as food assistance and delivery, support for rent payments, child care, pharmacy deliveries and more. “People want to stay home if they are sick, but they worry about losing their jobs, or not being able to feed their families. They may live in a house with several generations and don’t know how to stay isolated,” said Dr. Marta Induni, program director for PHI’s Tracing Health. “We talk them through solutions, connect them to all the resources already out there to help them, and give them information they can trust. We don’t just tell people to stay home. We help make it possible.”

Our experience with PHI has exceeded our expectations. PHI immediately provided assistance, and as a result, we were able to control (a significant) outbreak and keep it from spreading further into our community. PHI staff and leadership quickly integrated their work with our Incident Management Team. PHI provides services in multiple languages, they respect diversity and understand how the social determinants of health affect morbidity and mortality from COVID-19. Alan Melnick, Public Health Director and Clark County Health Officer
Thank you from my daughter, granddaughter and myself for being so kind and helping us while we were sick. I looked forward to the daily calls during isolation. We are all recovered now, and nobody else we had been in close contact with caught it. Keep up the good work! COVID-19 Contact
Thanks to you all: our county and PHI case notification and contact interviewing teams. You are an outstanding group of professionals, so very committed to providing compassionate help and guidance to every individual we are supporting. You are making a huge difference! Clark County Official

The initiative will identify priority areas that have been most impacted by COVID-19. In California, Latinx and African-American communities are experiencing disproportionate impacts from COVID-19 due to systemic issues such as exposure to pollution, higher levels of stress, higher proportions of essential workers, and others that put people of color at greater risk for coronavirus and for the underlying health conditions like hypertension and diabetes that make the virus more deadly. 

The initiative aims to have approximately half of its contact tracing staff working with safety net partners (such as federally qualified health centers) and half within the KP system, so the process of contact tracing can begin immediately when patients come in for COVID-19 testing. Kaiser Permanente and PHI will also initiate research on the long-term effects of the disease, to inform future strategies for suppressing coronavirus and evaluate the effectiveness of having contact tracers embedded within a clinical setting.

These targeted funds are part of a broader infusion of funding in California’s COVID-19 response infrastructure from a variety of sources.  Last week the state of California also issued $150 million in supplemental funding to California counties to support contact tracing in local health jurisdictions. And, a group of California-based philanthropic partners have committed $18 million of a planned $25 million fund targeted to support community members that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, along with community based organizations, which will also be implemented by the Public Health Institute.

PHI is continuing to hire for contact tracers, supervisors, resource coordinators and scientific staff (data analysts, epidemiologists, and research supervisors) for the program. If available, positions will be listed on the PHI employment page.

Learn more about PHI's response to COVID-19

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