County ramps up contact tracing program with call for volunteers

For weeks, Santa Clara County health leaders have been honing in on a test, trace, isolate model for containing COVID-19.

That effort took another step forward Thursday with the launch of a volunteer program for tracers. The county’s goal is to build a workforce of 1,000 caseworkers to trace and contact potential exposures. That is well more than twice the size of the current Public Health Department.

“Contact tracing is a fundamental public health strategy that we use for many contagious diseases,” said Dr. Sara Rudman, a county health official.

To apply, click here.

While some county staff have been shifted into contact tracing roles, volunteers are desperately needed. To help determine the best fits for the open roles, the county launched an online survey. It discusses applicant skills, interest, and availability.

“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,” Rudman continued.

Calls, interviews, and data

With one of the most diverse populations of any county in the entire country, Santa Clara is also looking for staff and volunteers with language capabilities beyond English, particularly Spanish and Vietnamese.

Much of the work can be done from home, a welcome feature in the times of social distancing. Selected volunteers would need internet access, a computer, and space for making sensitive phone calls.

According to the county, “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.”

Specific experience in contact tracing is not needed to apply, as the county will provide training. Heluna Health is partnering with the health department to teach interview skills, show how to use the tracing software, and discuss privacy requirements.

Desired skills

County officials hope trainees will be able to work at least 24 hours per week, for at least three months. An ideal worker would be able to do 40 hours per week for six or more months.

Customer service and interpersonal skills, with solid written and verbal communication skills are critical.

“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.

To see more information or to apply, click here.