As states and counties grapple with containing the spread of COVID-19, they are learning that the virus places novel demands on contact-tracing efforts. Early experiences from states with contact-tracing programs suggest that a successful program needs to account for the economic circumstances of people infected, as well as their families; it needs to account for the emotional and psychological ramifications of learning you and your loved ones are at risk of infection; and it needs to account for contextual and community factors, such as language and culture, that could be barriers to reaching the very populations most at-risk of contracting the disease.
On this episode of On the Evidence, four guests discuss emerging lessons from states and localities on conducting effective and equitable contact tracing for COVID-19. This episode is an abridged and edited version of a webinar hosted by Mathematica on August 21 featuring the following guests:
- Sandra Hernández, president and chief executive officer of the California Health Care Foundation and a former director of public health for the City and County of San Francisco
- Candace Miller, a senior researcher at Mathematica who recently became the project director for the Washington State COVID-19 Contact Tracing Partnership
- Elizabeth Odell, director of medical operations, La Clínica de La Raza Inc., a community health center that is leading local contact-tracing efforts in the East Bay area of Northern California
- Marina Pravdic, manager, communications, policy, and advocacy, The Rockefeller Foundation, which released its second national COVID-19 testing and tracing action plan in July
The wide-ranging discussion covers the following topics:
- How contact tracing for COVID-19 is different from past contact-tracing efforts for other infectious diseases;
- How a jurisdiction should measure the operational effectiveness of a contact-tracing program;
- What states and localities are doing to incorporate equity into their contact-tracing programs; and
- What role philanthropy can play in supporting contact tracing.
Listen to the full episode below.
A version of the conversation with closed captioning is also available on Mathematica’s YouTube channel here.
Mathematica’s Divya Vohra, who has been training contact tracers in California, shared reflections in a blog post about the importance of cultural humility and empathy in contact tracing to establish trust with hard-to-reach populations, especially people of color and immigrant communities.
Candace Miller appeared as a guest on an earlier episode of On the Evidence, where she talked about her experience with contact-tracing programs.