LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — County public health officials are stepping up its COVID-19 contact tracing efforts to the tune of $10 million.
Infections continue to go up throughout Los Angeles County, which has seen four days of new highs in the past week. So Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health says they will put more effort into contact tracing, the investigation of infections and outbreaks to help prevent further spread.
“It’s very important to note that contact tracing doesn’t necessarily identify the source of infection, particularly with this virus, which has innate characteristics that add to this challenge,” County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. “COVID-19 has a long, 14-day incubation period and cases don’t develop symptoms right away or even at all. These factors in the virus make pinpointing the source of the outbreak very difficult.
The county says they have identified 2,500 contact tracers, 1,600 of whom are currently working, while the rest are in training. But that army of contact tracers is responding to more than 1,000 outbreaks, receiving information on nearly 3,000 new cases every day, and on some days, more than 4,000.
Contact tracing, however, has been hampered by a lack of contact information and willingness to undergo the lengthy interview.
“On average, less than 50% cases provided us with information about their close contacts,” Dr. Ferrer said. “We believe that this is because people, and people have told us, that they’re fearful of losing their housing, their jobs and their relationships.”
To help with these obstacles, the Department of Public Health is allocating $10 million to community-based organizations to help with communications, navigations and case management. The funds will also help make sure residents are connected to services and support if they need to isolate or quarantine.
The county will also offer a $20 gift card as an incentive for full participation in the contact tracing interview process, which officials acknowledge can be stressful and requires people to pore through their calendars, work schedules and other documents.
The Department of Public Health will also spend money on promoting its call center, where anyone with a positive test result can call 1-833-540-0473 to complete their case interview and connect with resources, and on a new text messaging system to track contacts during their 14 days of quarantine.