Contact tracing effort scaled way back

DR. JOIA MUKHERJEE, the chief medical officer at Partners in Health, said the organization has drastically scaled back its contact tracing workforce amid a sharp decline in COVID-19 infections.

On CommonWealth’s Health or Consequences Codcast, Mukherjee said Partners in Health has gone from 1,900 employees to 470. Working under a contract with the state of Massachusetts, the organization contacts those infected with the coronavirus and tracks down all those who they have come in close contact with (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) to urge them to get tested and quarantine. The program also employs resource coordinators to help those who need food, health care, or other services in order to shelter and recover or quarantine.

Mukherjee said the organization is now right-sized for the job it needs to do. “We think that will allow us to properly handle 300 cases a day in addition to what the local boards of health are handling,” Mukherjee told John McDonough of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Paul Hattis, recently retired from the Tufts University Medical School.

State officials have been vague about the employee reductions at Partners in Health. As of June 18, a spokesman said the nonprofit had 1,212 employees, which was described as “peak staffing.” If those numbers were accurate, the nonprofit cut 742 employees in about 15 days.