SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Governor Newsom said tracing coronavirus cases is a key step to reopening our economy.
Doctors believe Sacramento has a unique opportunity to do this through contact tracing.
“Any new case that we get, we want to snuff it out at its source, and that’s what you do with contact tracers,” said Dr. Peter Beilenson, Sacramento County Health Services Director.
These tracers will try to locate every person a coronavirus patient came into contact with, then test them and ask them to quarantine for 14 days.
Beilenson said hospitalizations and ICU visits are down, which helps make tracing feasible. He said contact tracing wouldn’t be feasible in places like New York City, where there’s tens of thousands of cases.
“Sacramento has the lowest number of cases per capita of any of the major urban areas in the United States of America,” Beilenson said.
Governor Newsom said Monday he wants to increase the few thousand tracers currently employed by the state to 20,000.
Currently, Sacramento has 35 tracers, but the goal is to increase that to 375 in a matter of weeks.
“This is all foundational so that we can more quickly move to modify our stay-at-home order,” Governor Newsom said during his daily press conference Monday.
Online contact tracer academies, sponsored by UCLA and UCSF, start Thursday. Officials say tracers will get 20 hours of training and hopefully be out in the field next week.
Karen White with UCSF is organizing one of these academies. She said the job can be tough because tracers are asking people to do something they probably don’t want to.
“It’s a lot about the softer skills and convincing people that this is the right thing to do and what they need to do to stop the spread,” White said.
The governor is focused on giving these jobs to state employees first, repurposing those who lost work. But it’s possible sheer demand will force him to open up this job to the public.