Tag Archives: Contact tracing

California Rolls Out a Virus Exposure Alert Tool – Here’s How It Works

CA NOTIFY is available today through Apple iOS and Google Android

NBC Bay Area, By Staff Report, December 10, 2020

California is rolling out a voluntary smartphone tool designed to alert people if they have spent time near someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The rollout of CA Notify on Thursday comes as the nation’s most populous state grapples with rising cases and hospitalizations nine months after it became the first state to introduce sweeping restrictions due to the pandemic. More than 80 percent of the state’s residents are under orders not to leave their homes for at least the next three weeks except for essential purposes.

Many residents will get a notification Thursday inviting them to participate. The more phones in the system, the better the system will work.

Here’s what to know about the mobile app.

  • The tool doesn’t track people’s identities or locations but uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect when two phones are within 6 feet of each other for at least 15 minutes, officials said.
  • Californians will be able to activate the tool in their iPhone settings — make sure you’re using version 13.7 or later — or on Android phones by downloading the CA Notify app from the Google Play store.
  • The encounters are temporarily logged in a way that doesn’t reveal a person’s identity or geographic location.
  • If people who have activated the technology test positive for the virus, they get a verification code from the California Department of Public Health and can use that to send an anonymous alert to other participating phone users they might have exposed over the past 14 days.
  •  How quickly you receive the notification depends on when the other person received a positive result and how quickly they consented to activate notifications in CA Notify.
  • Nearly 20 states already have apps based on Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification technology. In California, CA Notify was part of a pilot program at seven University of California campuses.

SF Chronicle report on contact tracing in Bay Area – “Solano County did not respond”

Bay Area’s contact tracers struggle amid coronavirus surge

San Francisco Chronicle, by Carolyn Said, July 20, 2020
In a photo taken with a telephoto lens, beachgoers gather at Robert W. Crown Memorial Beach on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in Alameda, Calif. Most people maintained at least fifteen feet between groups.
In a photo taken with a telephoto lens, beachgoers gather at Robert W. Crown Memorial Beach on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in Alameda, Calif.  Most people maintained at least fifteen feet between groups. Photo: Noah Berger / Special to The Chronicle

Contact tracing — finding and notifying everyone who has had close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus — is key to stemming the pandemic. Once people learn they’ve spent time near someone who had the virus, they can get tested themselves and quarantine so they don’t infect others.

Bay Area county health departments ramped up in April and May to handle the laborious process, most of it armchair detective work by phone and email, not the high-tech surveillance some in Silicon Valley originally envisioned. But the recent surge in cases has made the task much harder, because there are more people to contact and because it takes longer to be tested and then get the results.

Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties all fall short of their goal of doing case investigations for 90% of the people who test positive, and then reaching out to 90% of the folks those people had close contact with while they were infectious.

Napa, Sonoma and  Solano  counties did not respond to requests for information.

When it comes to reaching contacts of the people who tested positive, the counties range from 70% to 80%, except for Contra Costa, which reaches only 26% of those who had contact with infected people, and Marin, which reached only 46% (its numbers are older). Still, those numbers are far better than those in New York and some other states.

“Obviously we want as many as possible because that’s where you get the most bang for your buck,” said Dr. George Rutherford, an infectious diseases expert at UCSF who spearheaded San Francisco’s contact-tracing program. But modeling shows that even reaching 43% of infected people’s contacts provides some disease suppression. “I think the spread would be worse without” contact tracing, even though it hasn’t reached its potential, he said.

Contra Costa County could not say why it is so far below the Bay Area norm, especially since it is closer than Alameda and San Mateo counties to meeting its contact tracing staff goal.

“We’ve been grappling with it,” said Erika Jenssen, deputy director of Contra Costa Health Services. “To do effective contact tracing, we need timely lab results for tests, adequate staffing and to partner with the community.”

She pointed to delayed test results as a major obstacle. While the median turnaround time in the county is four days, many results come in as late as 10 days after testing — by which time a person may not longer be infectious.

And it’s not just results that take a while: In parts of the Bay Area, some people must wait a week or more for a testing slot to open up.

The case investigations — interviews with newly diagnosed people — shed light on how the virus has spread since shelter-in-place orders were eased.

“We are seeing more people who were at some kind of gathering; that’s a common source of exposure,” Jenssen said. Contra Costa County investigators found that 18% of those who tested positive had attended large gatherings in the previous 15 days, while 17% had been to in-person workplaces. About 20% had visited restaurants, supermarkets and other stores.

Signs encourage wearing a mask at Lake Merritt in Oakland in June.
Signs encourage wearing a mask at Lake Merritt in Oakland in June. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle
Even counties that have maintained fairly high contact tracing numbers say they struggle with the surge.

Solano County hits 409 active cases of coronavirus – can they all be contact-traced?

Thursday, July 9: 63 new cases today,
no new deaths. Since the outbreak started: 1,985 cases, 108 hospitalized, 27 deaths.

Compare previous report, Wednesday July 8:Summary

  • Solano County reported 63 new cases today, total of 1,985 cases since the outbreak started.  Over the last 7 days, Solano reported 509 new cases, an average of 73 per day.
  • No new deaths today, total of 27.
  • Hospitalizations – Solano is reporting 1 fewer currently hospitalized person since yesterday, for a total of 39, and held steady at 108 persons in the total number hospitalized since the outbreak started.
  • Active cases (“The total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Solano County residents who are still within 10 days of when their specimens were collected.”)Solano reported 39 more ACTIVE cases today, total of 409.  This figure has been climbing steadily: a week ago Monday there were 70 active cases, increasing to a previous high of 369 on last week Thursday and today’s record high of 409.  Only 40 of those active cases are hospitalized – a whole lot of infected people are out among us, hopefully quarantined.  Seriously, is the County able to contact trace all of these?
  • ICU beds Available increased by 6% to 37%.  Ventilators Available declined by 4% to 82%.
  • Testing – 556 residents were tested since yesterday, total of 35,680.  We still have a long way to go: only 8% of Solano County’s 447,643 residents (2019) have been tested.

Details and Demographics tab

The County’s Public Health Dashboard includes a second tab (panel), “Details and Demographics” (shown here).  Note that the Summary tab and this Details tab are both user interactive – hover over a chart (or tap) to get details. On this Details tab, most of the small charts have a small additional tab showing the rate per 100,000.   Go there and explore the two tabs.  (Expand a chart by clicking the small button in its upper right corner.)

By Age Group

  • Youth 17 and under – 3 new cases today, total of 192 cases, and no new hospitalizations, total only 2Two weeks ago, there were only 87 cases among this age group – we’ve seen over 100 new cases in 14 days!  I continue to be alarmed for Solano’s youth.  Cases among Solano youth have increased in recent weeks to nearly 10% of the 1,985 total confirmed cases.
  • Persons 18-49 years of age – 46 new cases today, total of 1,188 cases.  This age group represents 60% of the 1,985 total cases, by far the highest percentage of all age groups.  The County reported no new hospitalizations among this age group today, total of 28 hospitalized at one time, and 2 deaths.
  • Persons 50-64 years of age – 10 new cases today, total of 381 cases.  This age group represents 19% of the 1,985 total cases.  No new hospitalizations today, total of 36 hospitalized at one time.  No new deaths, total of 3 deaths.
  • Persons 65 years or older – 4 new cases today, total of 223 cases.  This age group represents 11% of the 1,985 total cases.
    No new hospitalizations, total of 42 hospitalized since the outbreak began.  No new deaths, total of 22 deaths.  In this older age group, 19% of positive  cases required hospitalization at one time, a substantially higher percentage than in the lower age groups And this group accounts for 22 of the 27 deaths, or 81%.

Incidence Rate: Cases, Hospitalizations, Deaths

On the Race/Ethnicity chart (and also on the Age Group chart) there are “Rate” tabs.  Today’s report shows Solano County with:

    • Solano County has 442 positive cases per population of 100,000, up from 428 yesterday (Compare this number with the City incidence rates, below.)
    • 24 Solano hospitalizations per population of 100,000, same as yesterday.
    • 6 Solano deaths per population of 100,000, same as yesterday.

Percent Positive Test Rates

Increasingly, national, state and county news reports are focusing on percent positive test rates.  Five Bay Area counties report daily on their seven-day average percent positive test rate, but Solano County does not.  This information is immediately important, as positive test rates in California and other southwestern states are increasing.  I wrote and asked Dr. Matyas on June 24 to supply information as to Solano County’s “percent positive test rate.”  He replied next day with thanks and wrote, “We are actively working to include these values on our County dashboard.  I hope we can begin to report on them sometime next week.”  That was nearly 2 weeks ago… (and I wrote to him again today, will keep you posted).

City Data

  • Vallejo added 19 new cases today, total of 677.
  • Fairfield added 26 new cases today, total of 685.  Fairfield has seen over 200 new cases over the last week, and now has more positive cases than anywhere in Solano County.
  • Vacaville added 8 new cases today, total of 308 cases.
  • Suisun City added 3 new cases today, total of 130 cases.
  • Benicia added 1 new case today, total of 40 cases.  Benicia was extremely stable with only 2 new cases for the entire month of June.  Now Benicia has seen 14 new cases in 10 days.  The numbers are small in comparison to other Solano cities, but something’s definitely going on in Benicia!
  • Dixon added 5 new case today, total of 116 cases.  Dixon has also moved from stable to increasing over this last week.
  • Rio Vista added 1 new case, total of 21 cases.
  • Unincorporated areas – Although the County still still shows Unincorporated at <10 (less than 10), a little math tells the story: Solano’s unincorporated areas remained steady at 8 cases, those unaccounted for in the other City totals.
  • A “Rate” column shows the rate of positive COVID-19 cases (per 100,000 population) for each city.  Benicia has the lowest rate, 145.1 cases per 100,000.  Compare Solano cities’ incidence rates in the chart, and note that the CDC reports today’s rate in California at 732 per 100,000 (up from 702 yesterday).

Race / Ethnicity

The County report on race / ethnicity data includes case numbers, hospitalizations, deaths and Solano population statistics.  There are also tabs showing a calculated rate per 100,000 by race/ethnicity for each of these boxes.  This information is discouragingly similar to national reports that indicate worse outcomes among black and brown Americans.  As of today:

  • White Americans are 39% of the population in Solano County, but only account for 23% of cases, 22% of hospitalizations and 19% of deaths.
  • Black Americans are 13% of Solano’s population, and account for 12% of cases, but 29% of hospitalizations, and 35% of deaths.
  • Latinx Americans are 26% of Solano’s population, but account for 37% of cases.  They account for 25% of hospitalizations, and 23% of deaths.
  • Asian Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 10% of cases and 14% of hospitalizations, but 19% of deaths.

Much more…

The County’s new and improved Coronavirus Dashboard is full of much more information, too extensive to cover here on a daily basis.  The Benicia Independent will continue to summarize daily and highlight a report or two.  Check out the Dashboard at https://doitgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=055f81e9fe154da5860257e3f2489d67.

You could get a phone call this week from a COVID-19 tracer…and you could volunteer to be one!

Newsom pushes virus contact tracing with first batch of tracers

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Fiona Kelliher, May 24, 2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom, news conference at Mustards Grill in Napa, Calif., Monday May 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool) 

A batch of about 500 people will be deployed this week statewide for contact tracing, the public health practice that involves tracking down people who have come in contact with COVID-19 patients.

Starting this week, the tracers will begin calling, texting and emailing those who may have been exposed to coronavirus, encouraging them to quarantine or recommending medical care, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office. Meanwhile, Californians may notice new radio, television and billboard campaigns that aim to up awareness of contact tracing and urge people to pick up the phone. Tracers will be identified as part of the “CA COVID Team” — an effort led by the California Public Health Department — when texting or calling, and will not share health information with outside entities.

The tracers are the first batch toward a goal of 10,000 statewide, according to Newsom’s office. It’s not exactly clear how those tracers will work in tandem with local health departments’ own contact tracing programs.

Working with the University of California, San Francisco and Los Angeles, the state began developing an online training program earlier this month to get the tracers up to speed. Another 300 tracers will be trained this week, Newsom’s office said.

Governor Newsom Launches Contact Tracing Program

Gov Press Release,

Governor asks Californians to answer the call to help keep our families and communities healthy and on the path to reopening

SACRAMENTO – In the ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom today launched California Connected, the state’s comprehensive contact tracing program and public awareness campaign. As part of California Connected, public health workers from communities across the state will connect with individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and work with them, and people they have been in close contact with, to ensure they have access to confidential testing, as well as medical care and other services to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The state’s program is led by the Administration in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health, local public health departments and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Los Angeles (UCLA), which have launched a robust online training academy to develop a culturally competent and skilled contact tracing workforce.

“We are all eager to get back to work and play, and that’s why we’re asking Californians to answer the call when they see their local public health department reaching out by phone, email or text,” said Governor Newsom. “That simple action of answering the call could save lives and help keep our families and communities healthy.”

To prevent the spread of this virus, public health workers will connect Californians with confidential testing. They may also recommend medical care,

and that individuals who could be infectious separate themselves from others in their home to protect those around them. Information provided to local public health departments is confidential under California law. Public health authorities will not share that information with outside entities. That information will be used for public health purposes only. Contact tracers will not ask for financial information, social security numbers or immigration status.

“A key step in stopping the spread of COVID-19 is quickly identifying and limiting new cases, across the diversity of our populations – and that’s exactly what this statewide program does,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer. “We are bringing together the best minds in public health, academia and private industry to design a program that can help lower the risk for COVID-19 in all of our communities and keep us on the path to reopening.”

The California Connected public awareness campaign is getting off the ground this week with support from multiple private partners who have committed a total of $5.1 million in funding and in-kind resources to help educate all Californians, and underserved communities in particular. These partners include Jeff Skoll and his organizations (The Skoll Foundation, Participant, and Ending Pandemics), The California Health Care Foundation, The California Endowment, Twitter and Facebook, in addition to existing media partners engaged in the larger public awareness effort.

Beginning this week, Californians across the state will hear radio ads and see billboards, social media posts and videos in multiple languages encouraging them to answer the call to slow the spread of COVID-19. Public health workers across the state – identified on caller ID as the “CA COVID Team” – will call, text and email individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and people they may have unknowingly exposed to the virus.

The state plans to launch 10,000 contact tracers statewide as part of its plan to reopen California. More than 500 individuals have been trained under the new contact tracing program, and more than 300 are being trained this week.

To streamline and coordinate these efforts, Accenture, a leading global professional services company, is launching a data management platform developed by Salesforce and contact capabilities (phone calls, texts and emails) in collaboration with Amazon Web Service’s Amazon Connect. These organizations have already successfully implemented a large-scale contact tracing effort in Massachusetts.

More information: CaliforniaConnected.ca.gov.

A PSA from Director of the California Department of Public Health Dr. Sonia Angell can be found here. Watch the California Connected PSA in English here and in Spanish here. An infographic and other content can be found here.

Additional Resources:

UCSF Online Training Academy

UCLA Online Training Academy