While government heads dream of a COVID app as a one-size-fits-all solution to end lockdowns, human contact tracers have been doing detective work to preempt escalating infections in San Francisco, Singapore and Bavaria.

When Lucia Abascal calls a client, she first asks them whether they have a home and enough to eat for 14 days. “There are many homeless people in San Francisco. Not everyone can afford a quarantine.” Abascal, who was born in Mexico and is now a clinician in the US, often speaks to clients in her mother tongue. “The majority of at-risk people in the Bay Area are Latinos. Some have to go outside to work to provide for their large families. This makes them vulnerable to catching the virus.”

Abascal works as a contact tracer. She is part of a 40-person team in San Francisco consisting of public health officials, clinicians, medical students, but also librarians currently out of work. They call the contacts of people infected with COVID-19 and arrange tests for them. If needed, they send food packages or medicine and arrange hotel rooms.

Lucia Abascal works as a contact tracer and clinician in San Francisco
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