In a public address on April 15, 2020, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a partnership between the City of San Francisco, Department of Public Health, the University of California – San Francisco (UCSF), and Dimagi to digitize a workflow to support with contact tracing and monitoring people who are potentially infected with COVID-19.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 in San Francisco,” said Mayor Breed. “At the same time, we need to look ahead and plan for how we will eventually go about easing the Stay Home Order while continuing to protect public health. When the time comes to make changes to the Order, we need this contact tracing program in place so that we’re equipped to respond to new cases and keep the virus from spreading out of control.”
Dimagi is supporting the development of a digital health system, built using our open source platform, CommCare, that will engage with individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and identify their recent contacts. Public health workers will then follow up remotely with any individuals who may have been in contact with a COVID-positive patient in voluntary, confidential, and culturally- and linguistically-appropriate conversations. All interactions are entirely voluntary and confidential, no data is collected without the contact’s consent, and special considerations like immigration status will have no bearing on these conversations or the data collected.
These contacts will then be able to receive daily text messages or phone calls checking in on their health and symptoms throughout a 14-day monitoring period. They can self-report symptoms via text, immediately alerting public health officials that follow up or testing may be required.
“We are doing everything we can to reduce the spread of the virus in our community, protect vulnerable populations, health care workers and first responders,” said San Francisco Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax. “But even as we respond to outbreaks now, we are looking ahead. We need to build a fast-moving, comprehensive system to track cases and support people to prevent further spread as much as possible as we ultimately move out of shelter in place into a new phase of fighting the pandemic.”
This new program, which is currently in a testing phase, will support current case investigation and contact tracing work and has already contributed to San Francisco’s efforts by contacting people who are close contacts and providing them with information about how to prevent further exposure.
“Contact tracing is just one part of an effective response infrastructure that will include aggressive outbreak investigations, expanded testing, adherence to isolation and quarantine orders, as well as continued prevention. These will be critical in the future to maintaining any gains we make due to our current efforts to flatten the curve,” Mayor Breed explained in a recent release.
Dimagi has been providing remote support to the Department of Public Health as they roll out training for people who will support these efforts, including San Francisco librarians, DPH and City Attorney staff, and UCSF medical students. Additional trainings are ongoing, with the ultimate goal of scaling up a citywide and regional workforce.
“We’re proud to be working alongside the City of San Francisco to offer urgent support and help prepare for the next phase of the pandemic response,” said Dimagi Co-Founder & CEO Jonathan Jackson. “We’re leveraging our experience from supporting outbreak response during the 2014-15 Ebola Outbreak and years of working with frontline workers. We’re working hand-in-hand with the team on the ground to develop an application that serves their needs and existing structures. And we’re supporting training efforts for the volunteers willing to lend their time to fight the spread of the disease. Our hope is that many other cities and counties will learn from the decisive action that Mayor Breed and the City of San Francisco are taking now.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s full press release can be found here.
For more information about this system, a summary is available here and a case study available here.
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