Contact Tracing Task Force will determine how virus is spread; One of several task forces being used against Coronavirus.
Mayor Ras J. Baraka and the City of Newark’s Department of Health are working with Partners In Health, the Rutgers University School of Public Health, municipal employees and a team of local volunteers to start tracing the person-to-person spread of COVID-19 in Newark.
The Newark Contact Tracing Task Force is one of several recently formed by Mayor Baraka in the ongoing battle against the disease. Other task forces include the continuous inspection of senior housing for sanitation, the collection and analysis of COVID-19 data, the development of a testing program, ensuring cleanliness of the City, monitoring compliance, the exploration of funding reimbursement for the City’s emergency expenditures during the crisis, and a collective effort around reopening and recovery.
“We have put teams together on every front to drill down on every facet of this crisis,” Mayor Baraka said. “Information is knowledge. We need this knowledge to know where we are being effective and what paths to take moving forward.”
The Contact Tracing Task Force work began this week with hopes to trace at least 100 cases a day as the City has identified more than 5,000 people who have tested positive for the virus.
“This is what we need to truly understand this disease, how it is spread and what we must continue to do to stop it,” said Mayor Baraka. “Contract tracing is one of the most important weapons we have.”
The City is encouraging media to contact the City Hall press office to learn more about all the municipal task forces.
The Newark Contact Tracing Task Force will utilize methods used by medical scientists for almost 50 years to both understand and potentially inhibit the spread of infectious disease. The City’s strategic alliance with Partners In Health, a global public health organization which has led contact tracing efforts to battle Ebola and H1N1 viruses, will play a critical role. The first global use helped eradicate smallpox in 1977 and has since been used to identify the source and spread of recent communicable diseases such as HIV, Ebola and SARS. Through contact tracing, a pandemic can eventually be brought under control.
“Partners In Health has run successful contact tracing programs in a variety of settings over the past three decades,” said PIH CEO Dr. Sheila Davis. “We’re honored to share that expertise with the City of Newark and support its efforts to accelerate the end of the pandemic.”
Aisha Glover, the President and CEO of Newark Alliance, helped lead the development of the five-stage process, which began last week with training, and created the architecture to collect, manage and evaluate data with guidance and input from City partners. Priority populations, including the elderly, the medically challenged and frontline workers, will be the first people whose histories are explored.
“The goals of the program are threefold,” said Ms. Glover. “First, to slow the spread of the virus. Second, to protect the most vulnerable populations, monitor populations difficult to track and clear frontline workers for continued work. Finally, this tracing data will help us develop strategies on how, when and where to reopen businesses and begin our economic recovery.”
In addition to the Rutgers Global Health Institute and the Rutgers School of Public Health, the City is also receiving support from the MCJ Amelior Foundation and strategic guidance from Partners in Health, which will be evaluating Newark’s system. The technology platform will be developed by CommCare, a leader in data collecting systems.
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