Spokane public health officials have contracted with an Oakland, California-based company to help epidemiologists here trace a growing number of Covid cases.
Spokane is the fourth Northwest county to hire the Public Health Institute to help with contact tracing.
Marta Induni, its senior director of research, says her organization began a few weeks ago to expand the tracing capacity in Portland’s Washington County.
"Soon thereafter we started gearing up in Clark County and now we’re working with Skamania and Spokane. They’re actually hiring right now for Spokane," she said.
Induni says the institute is assembling two microteams here.
“That’s basically a staff of about 10 people: eight contact tracer, one supervisor and a resource coordinator on each team," Induni said.
They will work closely with the Spokane Regional Health District’s contact tracers to determine where people were infected with the virus, then to help them through their quarantine periods.
“Not anyone can do this job. You have to be patient, quick on your feet, have sympathy and empathy even if someone is resistant or angry. You have to be able to sympathize with what we’re asking. We’re asking folks to stay in their homes for two weeks," she said.
Induni says the institute will continue the hiring process in Spokane this week. It will provide online training for those it brings onboard.
She says the institute also hopes to expand and provide Covid-related services to other local governments around the country.
“Some counties want epidemiologists and data analysts. Others, like the Spokane health district, wanted simply the contact tracing workforce," Induni said. "Another thing that has come up is talking to industry itself, businesses, around contact tracing for large companies.”
Money to hire the new tracers comes from the health district’s CARES Act funding, allocated by Spokane County.