When the program was first launched in June, contact tracers were only getting the information they needed from just over a third of those contacted, according to data from NYC Health + Hospitals.
Now the figures updated to July 4 indicate that contact tracers have completed interviews with approximately 55% of those tested positive for COVID-19 and approximately 48% of those considered close contacts of those tested positive and likely to have been exposed.
“Anyone who is employed on the first day will feel more comfortable in the third week than the first,” said Dr. Long. “And I think our data shows it, and I think it’s OK. ”
Long said his team is striving for a 75% completion rate.
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Part of the challenge for the tracers was to convince New Yorkers to share personal information, such as who they saw and how to contact them.
“Communication is essential,” said Kimberly Jocelyn, one of the city’s more than 3,000 contact tracers. “The use of language, tone and the creation of this very favorable and welcoming environment. ”
Jocelyn manages a team of around 17 people and says that a typical day involves around 50 phone calls, all of which are confidential.
Calls are not limited to getting information about close contacts. Tracers also help connect individuals to resources such as health care, testing, food delivery, and alternative hotel stays for individuals who need to quarantine or isolate.
“We care about it,” she said. “For me, I care. I want to listen. I want to better understand how I can help them better. ”
Dr. Long said that while tracers like Jocelyn are working to improve communication with New Yorkers, the program has had early success.
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He said interviews with people who tested positive for COVID-19 allowed the tracers to identify and reach more than 1,300 symptomatic people and help them isolate themselves quickly, preventing up to 4,000 potential new cases from developing. New York.
“Successful contact tracing is a key way to remove the virus,” he said. “If you remove this key piece from the puzzle, you run the risk of the virus coming back sooner.” The way we are going to continue is by working with New Yorkers. The program is as powerful as you make it. ” ”
To help improve the number of people the tracers reach, the city is launching the next phase of the contact tracing program, which involves several hundred community engagement specialists who will knock on doors for people they couldn’t reach. by telephone.
The city is also working to improve access to tests and increase the speed at which results are delivered to further improve the success of the screening program as well as the ability of individuals to quickly seek care if they need it.
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