California Eyes UCLA For ‘Virtual Training Academy’ For COVID-19 Contact Tracing Effort

Los Angeles News
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Researchers at UCLA are set to help craft training curriculum to assist in contact tracing of coronavirus patients.

While efforts are underway to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, California lawmakers are calling for a “multi-pronged approach” to battle the virus, including what they’re calling a “community contact tracing effort”.

The Department of Finance plan – similar to those being crafted in other states – includes staffing up for the purposes of handling rapid case detection, identification of contacts, and isolation or quarantine of those who are symptomatic.

State Finance Director Keely Martin Bosler issued a memo Friday calling for a nearly $26 million increase in emergency budget funding to scale up California’s response to COVID-19 by developing an $8.7 million “virtual training academy” involving UC San Francisco and UCLA that would be conducted online with live instructors.

Over the course of five days for a total of 20 hours, contact tracers would be trained in epidemiology, principles of contact tracing, and infectious disease containment strategies as a way to “augment existing local public health staff for the purpose of contact tracing”, according to the memo.

The online training will be provided to all local public health departments at no cost. It’s not clear what criteria would be used to select participants in the program.

Another $18.7 million is being requested to develop a data management platform “alongside the state’s disease surveillance system to support the contact tracing workforce”. Under the plan, multinational consulting firm Accenture will launch a contact tracing technology platform and run a “contact tracing call center” in collaboration with Amazon.

The program would be modeled after a similar one established in Massachusetts.

While there have been few details released on contact tracing in the U.S., Apple and Google recently announced a partnership to use their phones to pinpoint if their users have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

The companies say that information would be shared with public health officials, who would encourage users to get tested and those who test positive to self-quarantine in an effort to prevent them from spreading the virus to others.

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