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IsoCare nonprofit helps vulnerable ordered to isolate due to COVID-19 exposure

Dr. Panna Lossy recalled when it dawned on her that just asking someone to isolate or quarantine because of exposure to the coronavirus is no guarantee a person will comply.

It was the end of March, and Lossy, a Santa Rosa family physician, was volunteering at a drive-thru virus testing site, swabbing people for the infectious disease as they drove up in their vehicles, then letting them know they need to go isolate at home. Most nodded in agreement.

“In one car, I was testing an elderly woman, but there were two other people in the car, too, a little girl and her mom,” Lossy said, noting the family was Latino. “They mentioned that the father of the little girl was going through chemotherapy for cancer. They all lived in one house.”

Lossy quickly reached out to friends to start IsoCare. The all-volunteer organization offers important help to people who have COVID-19 or are awaiting virus test results and have been asked to self-isolate at home. Clients are referred to IsoCare by local community health centers, which serve a large share of low-income and Latino residents.

The group’s work assisting Spanish-speaking Latinos who have been living in quarantine has been crucial, said Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase.

“It’s great that they’re involved, they’re doing a lot of outreach,” Mase said. “In fact, they are doing contact tracing for some of our cases.”

IsoCare’s volunteers help educate people how to self-isolate properly in order to protect other family members from getting infected with the highly contagious new coronavirus. They help people decide who should cook meals or to have meals delivered, and provide connections to other community resources for mental health, financial assistance and food needs.

Since the group’s volunteers made the first calls to help on April 2, they have reached out to about 900 people, about 390 of them Latinos.

Lossy said IsoCare’s model of intervening while family members await coronavirus test results can slow the spread of the pathogen in households, which is one of the biggest reasons for the disproportionate effect of this disease on the Latino community.

“That means IsoCare may be reaching people five to 10 days before they would get a call from a contact tracer,” Lossy said, of the early intervention.

Lossy insists that relying on individual sacrifices, such as asking people not to go to work or leave their homes, to protect the larger community is not fair or effective.

“We need to support them for this brief but crucial time by providing deliveries of food and supplies, and the financial support they need to not work,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @renofish.

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