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Gov. Newsom pushes coronavirus contact tracing with first batch of tracers

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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; in the Bay Area, departments are looking to beef up staff with redeployed city and county employees, plus volunteers.

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.

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Track cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world here.

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