(TNS) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration expects more state workers to volunteer for contact tracing assignments, and if they don’t, the state has the authority to reassign them to the work, according to an administration spokeswoman.
Newsom is recruiting 10,000 contact tracers to call, text and email people who have been in contact with those who tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
So far, California has trained about 950 state and local government employees to be contact tracers. Another 350 are in the pipeline, according to numbers provided by Ali Bay, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center.
“Our expectation is that state employees will continue to volunteer for contact tracing because they understand the critical nature of this effort and recognize that public service involves stepping up for our fellow Californians during an emergency or disaster,” Bay said in an email. “During any statewide emergency, and in the case of slowing the spread of COVID-19 to protect public health, state workers can be reassigned as disaster services workers to assist with response and recovery efforts.”
The administration has asked state departments to identify 5 percent of employees who could be redirected to contact tracing assignments, Newsom said Tuesday. California employs about 230,000 state workers.
The work will be a key part of slowing and eventually stopping the spread of the virus, Newsom has said. Experts are calling for more than 100,000 contact tracers to be deployed across America, nonprofit news organization ProPublica reported.
Trained contact tracers are assigned to local health jurisdictions for six- to nine-month assignments, Bay said in the email. Local governments have another 3,000 people dedicated to the work, she said.
Most contact tracing can be done remotely, she said, adding that, “if any in-person work is required, it would be done according to the state’s current guidance.”
As the administration seeks out the 5 percent of employees across departments, it will subtract employees already redirected to contact tracing, Bay said in the email. About 700 employees have been identified for the effort so far, she said.
She said the Employment Development Department, which has been overwhelmed processing unemployment insurance claims, is excluded.
So far, the recruitment effort has focused on the state job classifications of staff services analyst and associate governmental program analyst, common classifications in many departments.
The administration is also recruiting members of the public. Newsom announced a recruitment campaign May 22 that will include billboards, social media posts and videos in multiple languages.
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