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COVID Contact Tracers Using Texts, Calls, Visits To Reach More People In SF

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) - A city-wide contact tracing system in San Francisco will reach out to residents when they've been exposed to the coronavirus.

The city and county of San Francisco is averaging 130 new cases of COVID-19 a day, more than 900 a week.

To try and track and stop the spread of the disease, the 200 contact tracers at the San Francisco Department of Public Health are adjusting their strategy to match the rising caseloads, making phone calls and in-person visits to text messages.

"I think that's a much easier way to get a hold of people and get responses," said Joe Kaufman of San Francisco.

Inside the text, there are links to forms to fill out about whether you can safely isolate and who you might have been in close contact with while you were infectious. The program even backdates to when you might have begun asymptomatically spreading the disease.

"It's been used a lot on college campuses. You know, where everybody walks around with their head down looking at their cell phone all day long," says Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at UCSF. "It's been quite successful at the University of Arizona to notify people about contact tracing and creates huge efficiencies."

Dr. Susan Philip with the Department of Public Health says tracing the contacts of the sick is the best way to stamp out an outbreak.

"The more people who answer the call or text, the better our chances of getting control of the spread of COVID-19 in San Francisco and speeding up the re-opening of our city," said Dr. Phillip.

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