Baker: State launching ‘robust’ community tracing program to combat coronavirus crisis

BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday that Massachusetts will soon launch a “robust” and “targeted” COVID-19 community tracing collaborative in an effort to combat the coronavirus crisis and slow the spread of the potentially deadly disease.

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A staff including 1,200 public health college students that have been connected with state health officials will work in a call center to trace the activity of coronavirus patients, ensure they are taking the proper steps, determine where they may have been exposed, and identify who they may have come in contact with, Baker said during a news conference at the State House.

Baker said the tracing will entail gathering info on “close contacts” of an infected person to let people in their network know that they need to self-quarantine for 14 days and get themselves tested immediately.

Baker noted that he hopes the students will help ease the burden on local health boards by collecting vital information on those who are infected.

This program is a “much more robust and targeted” approach that Baker said he believes will be effective in slowing the spread of the virus, especially with cases expected to skyrocket in the coming days and weeks.

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“From our point of view, we need to take advantage of every tool we have in the toolbox,” Baker said of the state’s collaborative effort to combat the crisis.

Baker said Partners In Health will assist with ensuring that the tracing program is handled effectively.

Partners In Health is a Boston-based nonprofit with a “proven track record” in handling global pandemics and epidemics, Baker said.

“We believe that people want to know if they have been in contact with this disease,” said Dr. Joia Mukherjee, of Partners In Health.

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While the task ahead may be a daunting one, Mukherjee said Partners In Health is undaunted by the moral need to stop the epidemic.

“We need to mitigate the suffering now,” Mukherjee added.

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