A Community Approach to COVID-19 Contact Tracing
In September 2020, PCI, a Global Communities Partner, began collaborating 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 focuses on quickly and successfully reaching close contacts of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus and supporting those individuals through the monitoring process to reduce the risk of them further spreading the disease.
“We strongly believe that communities themselves must be part of the solution for contact tracing to be successful.”
– Carrie Hessler-Radelet, President & CEO of PCI
Our partnership with San Diego County 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.
What began as a small core team of 7 has since grown to 16 contact tracers, who among them speak 11 languages besides English: Spanish, Arabic, Tagalog, Chaldean, Ilocano, Kurdish, Vietnamese, Farsi, Mandarin, Pashto and Cantonese.
“This is more than a phone bank. 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.”
– Alina Shaw, PCI’s COVID-19 Contract Tracing Program Director
Together, PCI’s contact tracers represent the cultural and linguistic diversity of San Diego County and play a critical role in reaching underserved communities with accurate and culturally tailored COVID-19 health information. All team members have been trained and certified through the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Contact Tracing Course.
COVID-19 doesn’t take a break, and neither does PCI’s contact tracing efforts. Our program operates seven days a week and on holidays to provide San Diegans with the information they need to keep themselves and their families and communities healthy and safe amid the pandemic. Contact tracers make calls from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
PCI’s community roots and collaboration with organizations such as the Healthy Start Community Action Network and the San Diego County Promotores Coalition uniquely positions PCI’s contact tracers to refer contacts to services such as economic relief, food assistance or housing assistance due to the impact of COVID-19 on their families.
Additionally, PCI uses state-of-the-art technology to monitor the effectiveness and impact of contact tracing efforts. Our team tracks real-time analytics with Dimagi’s CommCare platform, tailored by PCI to match the program’s unique workflow. PCI collaborates with San Diego County’s HHSA to quickly pivot response efforts based on key indicators and the local situation.
Contact Tracing Project Objectives
PCI aims to provide San Diego County with performance-based contact tracing focused on:
- Responsiveness: Attempting to call all contacts at least once in 24 hours and three times within the first 48 hours after assignment;
- Wholeness: Approaching clusters of contacts associated with a given case; and
- Compliance: Providing education, resources and trusted interactions to increase contacts’ adherence to quarantine and isolation guidance.
The lessons that PCI has learned through contact tracing with San Diego County can be applied to COVID-19 response efforts in other jurisdictions, populations and organizations — from contact tracing to vaccine rollout and other services. For more information about our program and how to partner with PCI to address your global pandemic needs through a local lens, contact Alina Shaw.