Santa Clara County is looking to take their group of 50 County employees, who are trained in case investigation and contact tracing, and expand it 1,000 by recruiting volunteers.
“What we need is to respond to, not just to the few cases we have today and the very few contacts that people are coming into contact with right now, but the many more contacts they may come into contact with after we ease restrictions — after we ease shelter in place,” said Dr. Sara Rudman, Assistant Health Officer.
The goals of case investigation and contact tracing is to help ensure that the County can quickly contain transmission of the COVID-19 to small clusters and prevent widespread transmission that leads to exponential case growth and an overwhelmed healthcare system. Contact tracing prevents additional cases by interrupting chains of transmission, or the spread of the virus, especially by people who don’t yet know they have COVID-19 or who don’t feel sick.
As the County continues to ease shelter-in-place restrictions, there will be an increased number of contacts to each new COVID-19 case, and the County Public Health Department anticipates it will need to reach up to 21,000 contacts of exposed individuals each week at the peaks of transmission.
Contact tracing capacity is one of five key indicators monitored by Bay Area Health Officers as they consider further easing shelter-in-place orders.
“Right now, our daily case counts and the number of people they have come in contact with remain low, thanks to the community’s effort to shelter in place over the past weeks,” said Dr. Rudman. “Contact tracing is a fundamental public health strategy that we use for many contagious diseases. In order to ease restrictions, we know that we need to be prepared to reach out to every case, ensure they are able to safely isolate, and prevent further transmission by notifying any person with whom they have been in close contact, which will require this significant expansion of our contact tracing team.”
County workers have shifted their duties to become contact tracers, but, to supplement this effort, the County is looking for volunteers to ramp up the efforts. All community members are invited, but the County’s goal is that a majority of the contact tracing staff and volunteers have capability in languages other than English, particularly Spanish and Vietnamese, according to Dr. Rudman.
This work can be done from home as long as volunteers have reliable internet, access to a computer, and a place to make private phone calls.
Volunteers will be teamed with Public Health Department staff; other County, City, and local government workers redeployed as Disaster Service Workers; and newly hired staff and contractors. Team members will interview cases, call potential contacts, enter and manage data, and identify resources needed to ensure appropriate follow up and compliance with isolation and quarantine. Volunteers will receive training from the County and nonprofit partner Heluna Health on interviewing skills, contact tracing software, privacy obligations, and other topics.
Desired skills and qualifications for contact tracing volunteers include:
- Able to work remotely for at least 24 hours per week, and ideally full-time at 40 hours per week
- Able to work for a minimum of three months, and ideally six months or longer
- Excellent customer service and interpersonal skills
- Strong written and communication skills, with an attention to detail
- Computer proficiency with ability to enter data into web-based systems
- Able to work remotely with reliable internet and a computer
- Other language capabilities
The volunteer application website is available at www.sccgov.org/icanhelp.
“We have been heartened by the immense interest from our community to work together as we respond to this pandemic,” said County Executive Dr. Jeffrey Smith. “Effective response to COVID-19 takes all of us, working together, and volunteers are a key part of our contact tracing community outreach. If you are interested in joining us, please take a look at the requirements and apply.”
Read more about the County’s expanding case investigation and contact tracing work on the County’s website.