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Coronavirus Contact Tracers Remain Critical In Stemming The Spread, Lending A Helping Hand

BOSTON (CBS) - Three months into Massachusetts' phased re-opening, warnings from coronavirus hot spots continue.

"We're starting to see an uptick, we're right on the cusp of turning red," said Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan, during his latest coronavirus briefing. "So, house parties, parties at playgrounds, are just not acceptable right now."

Sullivan is now doubling down on efforts to keep people from gathering and directing the parks commissioner to not give out any permits for events. Brockton's percentage of positive cases is nearly triple the state average. The Plymouth County city is one of more than two dozen zones that are at moderate risk for coronavirus infections. And as communities work to stem the spread, contact tracing remains a critical step.

State data shows tracers have been able to identify more than 58,000 contacts of COVID-19 cases. The effort is spearheaded in part by Partners in Health (PIH) -- a Boston-based health care organization. Back in April, the non-profit partnered with the Commonwealth to launch the first coronavirus contact tracing program in the United States. So far, they've hired a team of more than 500 tracers who are tasked with calling the close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients. Alexander Miamen is one of those callers, but his role goes beyond investigating cases.

"That's my first approach to know the person's well-being. It's not just to gather information but to do a wellness check," said Miamen. "If you are asking someone to self-isolate for 14 days you have to make sure they have the resources to do that."

As a care resource coordinator, Miamen helps those most vulnerable get what they need. The molecular biologist stepped away from cancer research to take on this endeavor, one he calls an "intricate part of the system." Whether it's finding access to food, or a safe space to isolate, coordinators work within their communities. In one case, Miamen even organized a fundraiser to help a family with funeral expenses.

"I was able to arrange for $7,000 to be transferred to this family, from members of the community, not from the government, from members of the community for this family to have a dignified funeral for their loved one," said Miamen. "We've created a platform for different members of the community to step up and help their neighbors. Neighbors helping neighbors is the best way to stop the spread."

Miamen says the outpouring of support is a testament to community and our shared responsibility. "We can create a community that speaks to the true sense of the word," Miamen said. "With all of the division we're seeing in our world, if one good thing could come from this pandemic is for people to know their neighbors and care for their neighbors and demonstrate that."

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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