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More back-up teams eyed to avoid wearing out contact tracers – Mayor

Sept. 17, 2020 – The city government wants to organize more back-up teams as reinforcement to prevent wearing out its contact tracers and maintain work quality in the contact tracing program being a vital tool in Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) control, Mayor Benjamin Magalong said.

The mayor said the city will train more individuals both paid and volunteers to form additional teams and provide relief to existing ones who have been working hard since the start of the pandemic.

“Even the best in the field no matter how good and dedicated are not immune to stress and fatigue especially in this situation.  Productivity is bound to suffer so we have to give our hardworking teams a breathing spell so that they do not have to work everyday,” the mayor said.

He said the city has 20 contact tracing teams with 600 trained personnel but it needs 200 additional contact tracers to maintain work effectiveness and efficiency as virus deterrent.

“At present we have around 40 plus second stringers who we are tapping so the doctors leading the teams can take a rest.  Of course they will still be the ones directing the operations but the legwork, let us leave to our second stringers also as a form of understudy or exposure for them to learn further,” he said.

He said the city has to deploy fresh teams to sustain the effectiveness of the program.  One indicator would be maintaining the contact tracing efficiency ratio which the city originally set at 1:37 or 37 persons traced for every patient.

“Our old efficiency ratio of 1:37 may have gone down because most cases now are local transmission and patients share the same contacts but we also cannot deny that fatigue has taken its toll so we have to bring in new blood, fresh bodies so we can enhance the program,” he said. 

The mayor welcomed the Dept. of Interior and Local Government (DILG) move to hire contact tracers to beef up local government unit teams saying it will help improve the operation of the system.

Magalong said he has suggested in his talk with DILG Undersecretary Bernardo Florece Jr. to downgrade the qualifications of prospective hirees to give chance to non-college degree holders to qualify for the position. 

“For me, they do not need to be college graduates as long as they have critical thinking ability and investigative mindset.  I know there are a lot who have the ability but failed to go college due to financial challenges or some other reasons.  I want to give it to them,” he said.

He said health workers are essential in the team so they should also be among those who should be hired. – Aileen P. Refuerzo