Kaiser Permanente has provided a $63 million grant to support California’s contact-tracing efforts as the state struggles to reduce the number of people who contract COVID-19.
The charitable funding will allow the Oakland-based Public Health Institute to hire, train and deploy an estimated 500 full-time workers from communities that have been hit hardest by the virus. They will be able to contact up to 5,500 people a day.
The additional workers are sorely needed. The most recent figures from the state Department of Public Health show there are 561,911 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date and 10,359 coronavirus deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
Contact tracing is essentially detective work. Tracers notify and monitor others who have come in contact with infected people. They can also help arrange quarantines to prevent further transmission of the virus while ensuring high levels of privacy and security.
The Kaiser funding will additionally help connect those in quarantine with supportive services to assist with food, housing, childcare and other needs.
“We must reduce the spread of COVID-19 and care for the communities that are being hit hardest by the virus,” Kaiser Chairman and CEO Greg A. Adams said in a statement. “The recent increase of cases in California demonstrates the importance of being able to accurately track the virus and respond when and where it begins to surge in order to save lives.”
The work is being done in collaboration with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration. Futuro Health, a nonprofit founded by Kaiser Permanente and SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, will coordinate with the Public Health Institute to guide the new hires into health careers.
The initiative will recruit people from communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, providing them with immediate jobs and income in the short term, and job training and skills to guide them into health sector and jobs and other career paths after the initiative has ended.
Mary Pittman, president and CEO of Public Health Institute, said Kaiser’s support will help her agency launch a rapid-response network aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“With teams based right within a clinic, we can offer support to people from the moment they realize they may have been exposed,” she said. “And because we are focusing on hiring from within the community, they’ll be getting information and resources from people they trust, in the language they are most comfortable speaking.”
More than half of PHI’s current contract tracers are bi- or multi-lingual, and most come from the communities they serve.
The $63 million is part of a recent, broader cash infusion in California’s fight to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The state recently allocated $150 million in supplemental funding to support contact tracing in local jurisdictions. A group of philanthropic partners have committed $18 million of a planned $25 million fund to support California residents who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, along with community-based organizations.
That pooled fund will also be implemented by the Public Health Institute.
Source: Orange County Register