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'California Connected' Contact Tracing Program, PR Campaign Unveiled To Limit Spread Of COVID-19

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- California is launching a comprehensive contact tracing program to help stop the spread of coronavirus along with a public awareness campaign to educate Californians about the program, with emphasis on underserved communities, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.

The program, dubbed California Connected, is in collaboration with the state Department of Public Health, local health departments and the University of California, San Francisco and Los Angeles, which have each launched contact tracing training academies

California Connected will pair public health workers with individuals who test positive for COVID-19 to find people they have been in close contact with and ensure they have access to testing, medical care and other services.

The Information provided to contact tracers and public health departments is confidential under California law and would not be shared with outside entities, according to authorities. Contact tracers will not ask for financial information, social security numbers or immigration status.

"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 Gov. Newsom in a prepared statement. "That simple action of answering the call could save lives and help keep our families and communities healthy."

Public health workers calling COVID-19 patients would be identified on caller ID as the "CA COVID Team." Communications would also come in the form of texts and email individuals to people who test positive and others they may have unknowingly exposed to the virus.

"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 in a statement. "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."

A $5.1 million public awareness campaign for California Connected was also beginning this week to help educate all Californians, and underserved communities in particular. Funding is coming in part from private donations, including from philanthropist and former eBay President Jeff Skoll, Twitter, Facebook, The California Health Care Foundation, and The California Endowment.

The awareness campaign will included radio and billboard ads, social media posts and videos in multiple languages.

The state has 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.

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