SADM #92 Sep/Oct 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in South Florida, contact tracing will be an important tool in helping to slow the spread of disease.
The data show that Hispanics in Florida may be at greater risk from coronavirus: Hispanics represent 26% of the state’s population but make up 33% of hospitalizations and 30% of all cases. Long before COVID-19, policies and practices fueled inequities and created conditions — such as multi-generational housing, exposure to pollution, stress, as well as underlying health conditions like hypertension and diabetes — that put Hispanics at greater risk for coronavirus and that make the virus more deadly.
Contact tracing helps interrupt that cycle. Contact tracers call people who have had a positive COVID-19 test, to help make sure they — and people they have been in close contact with — can stay home and keep others safe. They also provide contacts with the latest public health information and connect people who need to quarantine with resources.
The Public Health Institute’s Tracing Health program is one of the earliest contact tracing initiatives in the country. A major focus of Tracing Health is to connect people with support that helps them stay at home. Resources can include food assistance and delivery, support with rent, child care, pharmacy deliveries and more. The federal CARES Act includes funding for states to use specifically to help people get the resources and support they need.
Like other health data, contract tracing information is protected by the most stringent privacy and protection laws. Health information is more strongly protected than even the financial information many of us share every day online. We also find ways to make sharing information safer. For example, we provide a phone number, so people in quarantine who need support can contact us without having to provide their own contact information.
We also build trust by hiring staff that are mostly from the communities where we work. Most of our staff are bi- or multi-lingual (seven languages all together), so they can speak to residents in their own language. Creating trust with communities helps create success. In one case, we helped contain a coronavirus outbreak at a food packaging plant by contacting all 200 workers, 90% of whom speak Spanish. Within a week the plant reopened and the workers safely returned to their jobs.
Participating in contact tracing is an important way to help your community. By participating, you help your coworkers, your neighbors, you help someone‘s grandmother stay safe. And you are helping your community move to reopening more quickly and safely.
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