Kaiser Permanente is committing $63 million to support contact tracing in California as COVID-19 cases surge in that state.
The nonprofit integrated healthcare giant said the funding will be in the form of charitable grant funding to the Public Health Institute to create agile community health teams hired from communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Contact tracing has emerged as an important public health tool for slowing the spread of the virus tracking down contacts of those who test positive with the novel coronavirus in order to encourage them to self-isolate.
Tech companies Google and Apple are working together to create contact tracing technology to be able to notify people via smartphone if they've come into contact with someone with the coronavirus. Ride-sharing leader Uber has rolled out a service to give public health officials quick access to user data to track coronavirus cases.
The American Medical Association and other healthcare groups have implored congressional leadership to include more funding for COVID-19 contact tracing and testing across the country.
With the Kaiser funding, up to 500 contact tracers will be embedded in clinical settings to rapidly respond to COVID-19 hot spots and support ongoing contact-tracing efforts in California, officials said. Futuro Health, a nonprofit founded by Kaiser Permanente and SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, will coordinate with the Public Health Institute to guide the new hires into allied health careers, they said.
The funding will also connect California residents who are in self-imposed isolation with services to assist with food, housing, childcare and other needs.
“We must reduce the spread of COVID-19 and care for the communities that are being hit hardest by the virus,” said Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Greg A. Adams in a statement. “The recent increase of cases in California demonstrates the importance of being able to accurately track the virus and respond when and where it begins to surge in order to save lives."
Kaiser Permanente is partnering closely with health leaders across the state to determine where to begin these efforts, based on several factors, including the burden of COVID-19 disease, adequate testing capacity, and where communities are in need or challenged by disparities. Black and Latinx communities have borne the disproportionate impact of COVID-19.