Trained community leaders with language, cultural skills to enhance county’s contact tracing efforts

SAN DIEGO — PCI, a Global Communities Partner, is joining forces with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing. The program will focus on quickly and successfully reaching close contacts of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus and supporting those individuals through the quarantine process to reduce the risk of them further spreading the disease.

COVID-19 remains a threat to the health of San Diegans as the County reports an average of 400 new cases each day, 60 percent of which are disproportionately among Hispanic or Latino residents. Working closely with the County’s COVID-19 response efforts, PCI will begin operations with a core team of nine contact tracers who represent the cultural and linguistic diversity of San Diego County and have experience delivering health services and information to local communities.

“We look forward to PCI further strengthening our outreach to the contacts of those who test positive for the novel Coronavirus,” said Nick Macchione, director of San Diego County’s HHSA and lead of T-3, the county’s program to expand COVID-19 testing, tracing and treatment throughout the region. “Clearly this virus has reached deeply into all of our communities, and agencies like PCI that have strong existing outreach skills and healthcare experience are invaluable partners.”

The partnership builds on PCI’s 60-year history of locally driven, community-centered health initiatives in San Diego and across the U.S./Mexico border region as well as decades of experience working on the front lines of infectious disease outbreaks such as Ebola in West Africa and polio in India.

“Community outreach has been core to our mission since our first project at a small clinic in Tijuana in 1961,” said Carrie Hessler-Radelet, President & CEO of PCI. “We were one of the first organizations to employ the community health worker model, which continues to be central to our impact and community empowerment today. We strongly believe that communities themselves must be part of the solution for contract tracing to be successful.”

PCI contact tracers have been trained and certified through the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Contact Tracing Course and are bilingual in English as well as one or more of the following priority languages for San Diego County: Spanish, Arabic, Chaldean, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Tagalog/Filipino.

“This is more than a phone bank,” said Alina Shaw, PCI’s COVID-19 Contract Tracing Project Director. “We are building a team that cares and wants to serve their home community as we try to get this public health emergency under control.”

PCI’s COVID-19 Contract Tracing Program is just one of a series of local initiatives the nonprofit has launched or adapted in response to the coronavirus pandemic. PCI’s Healthy Start program aims to improve the health outcomes of mothers and babies in African American and Black Immigrant communities in San Diego by providing support during pregnancy and up to 18 months after a baby’s birth. Since mid-March, perinatal navigators have replaced usual client home visits with video and phone support, providing regular care and health education on the coronavirus, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

As part of PCI’s work with the San Diego Trafficking Prevention Collective, PCI’s Project ROOTS program created a COVID-19 Survival Kit for parents and educators to implement at home or via distance learning. The kit includes short, easy activities on emotional well-being, online safety and empathy and has had more than 1,300 unique views since inception.

To learn more about these programs and other efforts to support vulnerable families in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, visit www.PCIGlobal.org/covid-19.


About Project Concern International (PCI), a Global Communities Partner: PCI is a San Diego-based international health and humanitarian organization that partners with the most vulnerable communities in San Diego and around the world to implement programs that improve access to health services, nutritious food, clean water, education and economic opportunity. In San Diego, PCI improves the health of moms & babies; strengthens food security; fights human trafficking; and implements programs to strengthen community health, including COVID-19 emergency response programming. Last year alone, PCI impacted more than 21 million lives across Asia, Africa and the Americas, including here in the United States. For more information, visit www.PCIGlobal.org.