OC Agencies Partner to Train Contact Tracers in Fight Against COVID-19

July 27, 2020 Updated: July 27, 2020

A partnership of Orange County, California, health care agencies has created an online contact tracing workshop in an effort to boost the ranks of personnel available to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the county.

The University of California, Irvine (UCI) Program in Public Health has joined with the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) and the Orange County Health Equity COVID-19 Community-Academic Partnership to provide the workshop, which focuses on “health equity” in its approach.

The free program presents students with the latest knowledge about COVID-19, with an emphasis on the impacts and mitigation of the disease on low-income communities of color who have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic.

“The workshop is designed with established models of manual contact tracing and presents the latest knowledge about COVID-19 spread and mitigation,” said OCHCA Director Dr. Clayton Chau in a July 23 press conference.

The four-week series is delivered remotely, and offers group-based discussions as well as role-playing sessions. A certificate of completion is issued by UCI Public Health when the program is successfully finished. The certificate improves the chances a person will be hired by prospective employers, but does not guarantee a job.

With a lack of adequate resources, the OCHCA has struggled to keep up with the demand of new COVID-19 cases. Currently, the agency has approximately 185 contact tracers working full time, officials say.  Marc Meulman, a deputy director for the county’s public health services, said earlier this month that the county would need 476 tracers to meet state recommendations, according to The Sacramento Bee.

County health officials announced 273 new confirmed cases on July 27, bringing the total number in the county to 34,646. Two additional deaths were reported, for a total of 566.

Chau said it was “very hard to pinpoint the cause” of the recent spike in county cases. “I can tell you that transmission is in the community now, so everywhere you go you are at risk,” he said.

Health departments use contact tracing as an effective tool in preventing disease transmission by reaching out to those who have tested positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, and identifying anyone with whom they may have physically interacted.

The workshop, which began July 20 and concludes Aug. 21, is free and open to the public. Registration is available on the OCHCA website.