Santa Clara County Aiming to Expand Contact Tracing

The goal is to be able to have county staff investigate every new case of COVID-19.

Dr. Sara Cody
NBC Bay Area

Contact tracing will become a new focus for Santa Clara County public health officials, according to discussions at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

Contact tracing and case investigation is "core to public health efforts to control the spread of a communicable disease," Dr. Sara Cody told the board during the meeting. "And we're going to need to do it at a scale that we've never before done here or in many, many other places."

The goal is to be able to have county staff investigate every new case of COVID-19, but the county currently traces about 75 cases per day, according to Cody. She said an ideal team of contact tracing staff would be about 1,000 people.

Dr. Jennifer Tong, branch director for the health care surge team at the emergency operations center, said the county's personal protective equipment stock is "sufficient" for local healthcare providers to handle current patient volumes, but as hospitals and health care workers move towards resuming regular operations such as elective surgeries, PPE use will go up.

"There is an ongoing supply chain interruption," Tong added, but the county gathered roughly 16 million pieces of PPE, despite the nationwide shortfall in supplies. "But we still continue to have shortages, predominantly in regular-sized N95 respirators and gowns."

She also said the county's hospitals have been directed to keep a 30-day stock of PPE and notify the county if they have adequate supplies or not.

County officials on Monday announced two new testing sites - one at James Lick High School in San Jose and the other at Christopher High School in Gilroy - available by appointment only.

"I don't yet understand how we're ever going to be able to test enough, or how we'll have enough tests in California, to open up, even slowly," board president Cindy Chavez said during Tuesday's coronavirus discussions.

Cody noted that "we've been very successful with driving down the spread of infection. And we know there are places where we have more intense infection," so the county's next move forward is to target isolation of such high intensity areas, such as skilled nursing facilities, and trace those sites' spread to better understand where and when other parts of the county can begin opening back up.

This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight and written by Carina Woudenberg. Please  use the following link when sharing:
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