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Marin County hires Spanish speakers to trace virus spread

August 8, 2020

The Mercury News Article by: Matthew Pera

Marin County is bolstering its roster of Spanish-speaking public health workers in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus among the county’s Latino residents.

The county Department of Health and Human Services is set to hire five temporary workers who speak Spanish next week through a contract with the nonprofit Canal Alliance, a San Rafael-based organization that provides services for Latino immigrants.

The workers will serve as “contact tracers,” charged with interviewing Marin residents who test positive for the coronavirus and forming a list of people they have come in contact with. The tracers then track down the people who might have been exposed to the virus and ask them to isolate from others.

Contact tracing is a key strategy for slowing transmission of the virus, officials said, and the county has been increasing its tracing staff since the beginning of the pandemic. Marin had 77 tracers last week, which included county employees, Marin Medical Reserve Corps volunteers and interns. About a third of them speak Spanish

SAN RAFAEL CA – MAY 27: People wait in line for free COVID-19 testing at the Canal Alliance in San Rafael, Calif. on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

“For our community, language has been a huge barrier for contact investigation,” said Air Gallegos, Canal Alliance director of education and career.

San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood, a predominantly Latino community that is home to many Spanish speakers, has been hit hard by a coronavirus outbreak, according to health officials.

The five new contact tracers are Canal neighborhood residents, according to Gallegos.

“It’s one thing to talk to somebody in Spanish,” she said. “But it’s different to talk to somebody who really can understand where people are coming from in this community. Being able to empathize with people and offer them support that’s meaningful to them is going to be really important in fighting COVID-19.”

Read the rest of this article on The Mercury News website.

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