Tracing Health

A Look Back – Tracing Health Team Members Reflect on the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic

From the 24/7 intensity of multiple surges to the cautious optimism and relief of coordinating vaccination events, the pandemic has left a perspective-altering mark on our whole team. In a rare break from their work, we asked these public health heroes to take a moment to reflect on their first year of living and working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jennifer Franklin, Contact Tracer

“Contact tracing is is more than just tracing someone’s contacts. It’s being there for them. It’s letting them know that I’m human as well. You don’t have to just give me your information. You can talk to me. I’m a real person, so let them know that real recognize real. Its more than just collecting data.”

John Franco, Bilingual Resource Coordinator

“I have one goal in life, and that is to continue to serve the public. My purpose here on this planet is to provide the best possible service to those who I encounter on the street, to those who might be struggling with income disparities or from those who might not have what I have, I want to continue to be a public servant and serve the public in my best capacity.”

Hameda Dil Mohamed, Multilingual Contact Tracer

“This job is special to me because I’m not only working for the community, but for my family members and for my neighbors as well.”

Jae Williams, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“This pandemic has forced a lot of people to slow down and stop, and reconnect with themselves and their loved ones.”

Paulina Jafarzadeh, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“My ultimate goal is to help the Latino population in terms of mental health and general health.”

Maria Contreras, Bilingual Recruiter

“Some of the things that I look for in a candidate is that they have a customer service oriented mindset, that they’re flexible, that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

Eva Ruiz, Teams Manager

“Living through the pandemic this past year has definitely taught me patience and understanding.”

Gladys Jimenez, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“To me, the data has a voice because that voice is talking to me, its telling me their suffering, their pain, their love, their empathy.”

Arnold Dimas, Resource Coordinator

“Resource coordination is the identifying of various different resources and services at the community, the county, state and even federal levels, and then relaying that information over to people who have been affected by COVID-19. It’s really important because it addresses the social determinants of health, which play a huge role on health outcomes.”

Emily Henke, Executive Director, Oregon Public Health Institute

“Working during a pandemic has taught me that when we resource and fund public health the way it needs to be, we can accomplish amazing things.”

Alesha Casayuran, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“…When I got involved in the vaccine team, I was able to call the same couple and they were able to get their vaccine scheduled. They were making jokes saying that ‘hey, it’s Alesha. Are you going to tell us that we have COVID-19 again?’ And I was like, ‘no, I’m here to schedule your vaccine!”

Ariel Ransom, Community Care Supervisor

“We actually have a program that could help support you. Would you want me to put in a referral for you?’ And I remember the phone call going silent for a second and I thought ‘I might have lost her.’ And she said, ‘you’re going to make me cry. I’m going to try not to. But I didn’t realize that you were going to offer that.’ And I sat there with her and said, ‘that’s OK. If you need to cry, this is a lot and you’re handling a lot.”

“I struggled with COVID-19 far beyond what I thought I would ever experience, and my experience with a contact tracer helped me essentially save my mother’s life. When I got sick with covid, I had no idea I was exposed. It took that call from a contact tracer to let me know the day before I went to see my mother. And because of that call, I know that I helped save her life. My goal was to use that experience to help shape the foundation of what it is to stay home and how many lives each individual can save.”

– John Franco, Bilingual Resource Coordinator

Beth Midanik-Blum, Teams Manager

“It is extremely important to get to positive cases quickly because the quicker you are able to talk to someone who has COVID-19, hopefully the less exposure they give to others and therefore we are able to reduce the spread of COVID-19. So it does make a big difference.”

Javier Mendez, Bilingual Recruiter

“I’m proud of the work that I’m doing because not only are the people that I’m hiring saving lives, but also we are creating a pipeline of public health workers that can carry on this work way beyond Tracing Health.”

Carrie Rose, Workforce Development Advisor

“What we mean by workforce development is taking the time to really see and understand how we can build the capacity of all of our staff and then to match that with the needs that exist in the public health field, particularly in available jobs and career paths right now.”

Debbie Hintz, Director of Data and Informatics

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me that it takes a village to really solve this problem, not any one person with any one expertise can do it.”

Eden Lopez, Bilingual Deputy Director

“We work with the county health departments very closely. We have constant communication. We meet two to three times a week. We have constant contact through email, to phone, through Microsoft teams, you know, live chats soon. All that on a daily basis. The county provides us with scripts, with guidance, with updates on what’s going on in the community.”

Francisco Gomez, Bilingual Senior Program Manager

“I believe building up this robust team of contact tracers is important because we must do as much as we can to break that chain of infectious people which builds exponentially.”

Julian Hofschneider, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“Our Tracing Health team is unique because we are just like everybody else. We are not medical professionals and that makes it easier for us to connect with the rest of the public. And, you know, instead we can take complex words and we can break it down to our language for the average person.”

Linda Diaz, Bilingual Resource Coordinator

“In my country, Colombia, I am a physician. When the pandemic started, I looked for work in public health because I want to make a difference in this pandemic because I have the knowledge and I have the background. This is what I try to apply to Tracing Heath, and Tracing Health has opened the doors for me to help the people at this moment.”

Lorenzo Sotolongo, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“Every single person on my team is bilingual. When it comes to Spanish speaking cases, they are often faced with misinformation, so providing them credible information is invaluable.”

Dr. Marta Induni, Ph.D., Tracing Health Program Director

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me that we really do have a lot of empathy as a culture.”

Melika Mobini, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“What’s really cool about the Tracing Health teams is that they are extremely diverse, people come from all over. They speak all different types of languages, were able to connect, learn from each other in different cultures, different backgrounds. It’s kind of like a melting pot. So it’s really nice to learn from everyone and see different faces.”

Omar Vargas, Bilingual Contact Tracer Supervisor

“I’m going to call you every day to know how you’re doing, how your husband is doing, how your children are doing. And I want to give you anything that the county can get – all the help. I will help you with the whole process.”

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me we have to learn to work as a whole community and as human beings.”

– Omar Vargas, Bilingual Contract Tracer Supervisor

Sarah Thorwirth, Senior Training Manager

“The most important part of my job is to train the front-line workers so that they have the skills that they need to help the most vulnerable communities.”

Stephanie Rivera, California Contact Tracing Support Initiative (CCTSI) Director

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me that there is good that will override the difficulties and there are people that bring hope from very unexpected places.”

Vadim Gaynaliy, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“Lots of times these languages and dialects aren’t represented in interpreter services so it’s communicating to people directly about their health, gives them a bigger sense of privacy and they feel like they’re more understood if you’re speaking their language.”

Caroline Velasco, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me the importance of staying united and adapting to changes, especially when saving a life.”

Dexter Whack, Recruitment & Talent Assistant

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me to band together as one so that we can promote positivity.”

Gabriela Arima, Resource Coordinator

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me that you just can’t have expectations.”

Gabriela Carolina Rosales, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me how to recontextualized my life and prioritize what and what serves me.”

Gabriela Castro Gutierrez, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me that I want to help people.”

Magdalen Rath, Communications Intern

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me not to take life for granted.”

Margarita Melano Mendoza, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me self-care is so important. Without self-care, it’s hard to help others.”

Maritza Lissette Valadez, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me to be more grateful for life and those we have around us.”

Mason Dean Hershenow, IT Administrative Assistant II

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me to consider opportunities and possible steps that I wouldn’t have previously considered.”

“I’m proud of the work that I’m doing because not only are the people that I’m hiring saving lives, but also we are creating a pipeline of public health workers that can carry on this work way beyond Tracing Health.”

– Javier Mendez, Bilingual Recruiter

Miguel Martinez Salguero, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me it’s essential to be more united and try to enjoy our family members as much as possible.”

Stephanie Osorio, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me the importance of taking care of myself and my well-being.”

Tenesie Payne, Bilingual Contact Tracer

“This past year living through the pandemic has taught me that I’m able to succeed at anything I put my mind to.”

S. Brooke Briggance, MHFA, Program Director Cypress Resilience Project

“Cypress Resilience Project’s mission is to make sure that everyone in our communities knows what to say, what to do, and can really help support a person in a compassionate and trauma informed way who may be in a really escalated situation.”

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