SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Through a new partnership with the University of California Los Angeles and University of California San Francisco, Governor Gavin Newsom announced plans to train an army of contact tracers.

The governor said more than 3,000 employees per week will be trained to trace the spread of the coronavirus. Contact tracing is a method used to quickly isolate those who could be carrying COVID-19.

What You Need To Know

  • 3,000 employees per week trained to trace spread of coronavirus

  • 2 universities providing a virtual academy with 12 hours of online training

  • “Track and trace” workforce will come from existing state employees

  • Goal is to have 20,000 contact tracers


According to Governor Newsom, the two universities are providing a virtual academy that will consist of 12 hours of online training and eight hours of in-person training. Currently, only 23 counties in California are actively tracing COVID-19 patients.

Newsom has said that one of the essential steps for California’s economy to reopen is for the state to have a robust team of contract tracers, often referred to as disease detectives. Lucia Abascal is one of those disease detectives in San Francisco, where contact tracing has been underway since early April.


“Contact tracing has been going on for about a month in San Francisco. It’s one of the strategies that will help open up the city and the economy in the coming months,” said Abascal, a PhD student at UCSF.

When she is not taking virtual classed for her PhD, Abascal spends a lot of her time tracking down people who may have been infected by someone that tested positive for the coronavirus.


“[I] let them know that they’ve been in contact with somebody that’s infected, and ask them to please stay inside. [I] give them information on quarantine hygiene, and offer services such as food assistance to facilitate them staying inside,” Abascal said.

In diverse cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, speaking to patients in their native language is key to get them to understand the importance of self-isolating. Abascal, who worked as a doctor in Mexico before moving to San Francisco to pursue a career in global health, is working closely with the Latino population, a group that makes up a large part of California’s essential workers.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of worry about unemployment and going forward, we know this population will be particularly affected, but they’re grateful, they’re thankful, and we know we are doing this to help,” she said.

Despite Abascal’s background in medicine and public health, she explains contact tracers don’t need to have the same experience as she does. Many of San Francisco’s contact tracers are librarians, social workers, and attorneys.

Governor Newsom said the “track and trace” workforce will come from existing county and state employees that can be redeployed to work as contact tracers.

“We are recruiting government workers and others professions to do this work, and I think that’s a good thing. With adequate training, it’s something everyone can do,” Abascal said.

As a student, Abascal says this opportunity has been great for her career, but more importantly, it’s been a gratifying experience to use her spare time to make a difference.

Newsom said the first cohort of the virtual academy will start training on Wednesday. The governor’s goal is to have 20,000 contact tracers.