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New Haven and Norwalk among first programs in CT up and running thanks to digital solution
NEW HAVEN, CT – May 22, 2020 – As local, state, and federal officials begin carefully moving toward re-opening businesses and the economy, public health experts are emphasizing the need for increased testing and contact tracing to monitor new cases of COVID-19. Experts are calling on Congress to invest an additional $46.5 billion for contact tracing and self-isolation. The task of implementing these measures is being left largely to states and local government.
Among the recommended ways state and local policymakers can scale up contact tracing capacity is by contracting outside vendors and utilizing technology. Veoci has been on the leading edge of this effort. Since February, the New Haven-based company has helped over 300 of its customers in the United States and abroad implement over 400 solutions using its cloud-based emergency management, team collaboration and daily operations platform. New Haven and Norwalk have been using the platform for their contact tracing initiatives and are among the first municipalities in Connecticut to initiate such programs.
“From the outset of this unprecedented public health crisis, we have partnered with our clients to develop tailored solutions that meet their immediate emergency management needs but that are flexible and nimble enough to make rapid and continuous changes as their needs evolve,” said Nathaniel Ellis, Director of Strategic Solutions and Co-Ffounder of Veoci. “Our work with New Haven and Norwalk positioned public health officials in those cities to quickly and proactively mount local contact tracing programs before a state system was in place, saving time and potentially lives.”
Veoci’s contact tracing capability enables municipal health officials to collect key information on contacts including demographic characteristics, exposure history, and follow-up actions (i.e. observed symptom monitoring and a daily diary). The form, which can be customized to any public entity or organization’s needs, allows for the identification of asymptomatic or mild cases as well as severe cases because they all have the potential to transmit the virus.
Last week, state officials announced a statewide contact tracing system. To date, three local health departments in Connecticut have begun contact tracing through the state’s ContaCT system, and more than 300 people have been trained in the process so far. Brian Weeks, the city of New Haven Health Department’s epidemiologist, says he expects to integrate with the state system but is glad to have local capability already in place. The city’s contact tracing program uses its Veoci emergency management system with support and volunteers from Yale University.
Veoci helped New Haven mobilize its initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic by helping to develop a solution able to organize and track the flood of calls pouring into the health department. Residents throughout New Haven were seeking information about the outbreak and those showing symptoms needed support. Aware that Veoci software - developed by an experienced team from Yale and GE – was already being used by the City of New Haven, the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Department turned to Veoci for assistance and support.
Within hours, the Veoci team was working with Weeks and the Health Department’s Director of Nursing Jennifer Vazquez to set up and begin using a solution to systematically track reported infections and monitor symptoms on an individualized basis; track the number of calls per day and the details and resolutions of each call; and field any questions, suggest testing and provide support. They also created a city-wide collaborative process for following up on symptomatic cases.
“Veoci helped us scale up quickly to better manage the onslaught of calls,” said New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond. “Veoci’s partnership with New Haven as we ramped up to take on COVID-19 and continue to adapt to ongoing developments has been invaluable.”
Contact tracing has been a key component of the city’s response from the start. Using the Veoci solution, some 40 public health nurses and more than 140 volunteers have been able to identify and contact anyone an infected individual has come into contact with to stop the spread.
“Contacts are categorized appropriately, and if asymptomatic, they are monitored for signs of illness for a given point of time,” Vazquez said. “If any of these contacts become symptomatic and test positive, they are brought into the system and the cycle is restarted – everyone who is or has been in contact with the new patient is identified and the cycle begins again.”
As the United States begins reopening its economy, the experiences of South Korea and Germany are instructive. Despite careful measures to reopen in those countries, there have been renewed outbreaks. The CDC and other health experts in the U.S. agree that increased testing and contact tracing are essential to prevent a second spike in new cases here. “Test, trace, isolate,” said Dr. Peter Drobac, MD, MPH, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford’s Said Business School and a global health expert.
Veoci’s solution for contact tracing offers scalability, customization and all the tools state, local governments, and public health departments need during this public health emergency. It puts data gathering, communications, reports, and analytics all in one place, simplifying contact tracing operations and making the process more efficient overall.
New Haven Health Department epidemiologist Brian Weeks and Nathaniel Ellis from Veoci will discuss contact tracing in a webinar scheduled for next Tuesday May, 26 and Thursday, May 28. For further information, visit https://veoci.com/training/contact-tracing.