Orange County community members undergo training to conduct contact tracing in COVID hotspots

UC Irvine teamed up with the OC Health Care Agency and local nonprofits to train contact tracers in areas where COVID-19 has spread most.
SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Adriana Moreno is excited to be part of a training program that is making those impacted most by COVID-19 in Orange County part of the solution.

Moreno is a community advocate with experience working on improving access to public health for low-income, immigrant communities.

"I think what intrigued me is that it was being offered in Spanish and that's something that is needed a lot," Moreno said.

Moreno talked about the introductory forum for the Health Equity Contact Tracing Workshop. She's one of the trainees.

UC Irvine teamed up with the Orange County Health Care Agency and local nonprofits to train contact tracers in areas where COVID-19 has spread most.

According to OCHCA totals, as of July 23, Anaheim had 1,857 cases of the virus 100,000 people, Santa Ana had 1,588. These are the cities with the most cases in the county. Overall, OC had 1,054 cases per 100,000 people.

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A look at race and ethnicity showed Latinos were the group most impacted by the virus, with 42% of cases but only 35% of the population. For comparison, whites comprise 27% of the cases and nearly 39% of the population.

Moreno said after years advocating for improved public health in these communities, this didn't surprise her.

"In Santa Ana and Anaheim, in these pockets of cities, we have these large inequities of issues not just with health right now, but it's really manifesting itself with these other issues," Moreno said, adding, "most of the essential workers live in these cities. They don't have the privilege to stay home. They need to go out. They need to make a decision: 'Do I need to go to work or do I stay home?'"

Organizers said the 20-hour training would be online. OCHCA staff, UCI students and community members will role-play, learning the fundamentals of epidemiology and exploring health-equity approaches.

"You don't have to have a medical background to learn what's happening and to do the outreach, the education with your neighbors and in your neighborhood," Moreno said.

The public health advocate said empowering a community by making its members part of the solution was a step in the right direction, but said she hopes to see a shift in focus by policy makers in the future from putting out fires to preventative measures.

"It's unfortunate to see that in our region, the health officials here have taken so long to respond to that and to really take it serious," Moreno said. "And at times it's unfortunate to see that the areas that are not being affected as high with the pandemic, not see them take on the recommendations of wearing a mask, but when you live in close proximity or you work in these communities of color and you see it so alive and immediate the effects of the pandemic and even see people passing because of that, it's not a joke.

"It's not a hoax. It's real."

Moreno said during the forum, only 18 percent of more than 300 participants were community members. She hoped to see that number grow.

The four-week training is scheduled to begin July 27.
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