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State workers could be retrained to 'test and trace' coronavirus cases, Gavin Newsom says

Sacramento Bee logoSacramento Bee 4/23/2020 By Hannah Wiley, The Sacramento Bee

California state workers could get trained for an emerging workforce of 10,000 coronavirus trackers that Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday will be needed as the state reopens its economy and lifts the stay-at-home order.

Newsom last week outlined a six-point framework his administration will use to determine when California can begin easing restrictions implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 33,000 in the Golden State.

A key part of that plan is building a workforce that can “test and trace” coronavirus cases, isolate these individuals and contact anyone they may have potentially infected.

California has a long history of tracking during public health emergencies like waves of STD infections, Newsom said. But to build on existing local public health expertise for this statewide crisis, Newsom said state workers could get tapped to join a corps of thousands of trackers.

“We believe we have the capacity to build an army of tracers, beginning with a goal of 10,000,” Newsom said on Wednesday. “That is now our stated goal: to train these tracers, building off the local infrastructure, supplementing it as we can at the state level.”

The California Government Operations Agency has been completing surveys of state workers, Newsom said, to “see if they’re willing to do different work to support our tracing and tracking efforts.”

As the state ramps up testing and adds 86 new testing sites in rural and African-American and Latino communities, local public health officials will need the support of additional personnel to follow up on potential positive coronavirus cases.

More than 465,000 Californians have been tested for the coronavirus, a number Newsom called “inadequate” to begin reopening the economy and lifting the stay-at-home order.

The state moved from an average of 2,000 tests per day in March to a current 16,000. The goal by the end of April is to hit 25,000 per day, with a final target of at least 60,000 in the next couple of months.

Testing is the “foundation” for stopping the spread of COVID-19, Newsom explained, but tracing is the next part of the process.

“Our foundation in terms of testing doesn’t mean much unless you can begin protocols to track and trace,” he said.

The governor also announced a new training academy to support the work and said the state will aggregate data to “track the trackers, track the tracing,” so there’s a centralized location to place coronavirus case information.

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©2020 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

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