The city’s new contact finder program establishes a system to identify everyone with whom an infected patient has interacted. Currently in the testing phase, officials say, the program will include interviews with all newly infected patients in the city to establish the network of people they may have infected, and then inform these people that they may be potential carriers – all without revealing anyone’s identity.
The Mayor of London Breed said the process will be essential to control the epidemic once it has loosened some of the city’s social distancing orders.
“We are determined to do everything we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 in San Francisco,” she said in a statement. “At the same time, we need to look to the future and plan how we can eventually ease the home care order while continuing to protect public health. When the time comes to make changes to the Order, we need this contact finder so that we are equipped to respond to new cases and prevent the virus from spreading out of control. “
The program is conducted in partnership with the software company DIMAGI, which has developed technology to streamline the people-to-people system, and the University of California at San Francisco, which has so far trained more than 50 people on how to contact people who might be infected.
“This collaboration is a powerful example of what we can achieve when we bring together the best minds in our public health system, with the city, university medical centers and community partners,” said Chancellor Chancellor Dr. Sam Hawgood. ‘UCSF in a declaration.
Once a potentially infected person is contacted, they can text their symptom updates to outreach workers who manage their case for the next 14 days.
The system could be particularly useful in identifying asymptomatic carriers who would not otherwise be aware of their COVID-19 status. Fauci guessed on Tuesday that at least 25% of those infected show no signs of illness.
Effective contact tracking is one of six benchmarks to end orders for on-site shelters that California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) listed in a press briefing on Tuesday.
“The most important framework is our ability to extend our tests, to appropriately approach tracing and tracking of individuals … using technology and using a workforce that needs to be trained in an infrastructure that needs to be in place to start the transition process, ”he said.
Authorities in other countries have already launched an aggressive contact tracing. Health experts hailed South Korea for keeping its death toll relatively low by testing large sections of the population and using credit card transactions, smartphone data and security camera images for trace their tracks in their place.
In the United States, where stricter privacy laws are in effect, the Big Brother approach is a more difficult pill to swallow.