County of Marin - News Releases - Contact Tracing Course

For Immediate Release
July 28, 2020

Public Health Finds Partner for COVID-19 Tracing

Dominican University of California offers course to assist with pandemic response

San Rafael, CA – As many as 20 local university students will have a timely online lab class assignment starting this fall semester: Help Marin County Public Health conduct contact tracing of COVID-19 transmission and lend much-needed assistance to specialists on the front lines of the pandemic.

A woman working as a COVID-19 contact tracer sits at a computer with a headset on. Registered nurse Germaine Krase of the Marin Medical Reserve Corps is one of about 70 public health assistants working on local contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new partnership between the County of Marin and Dominican University of California starts in the upcoming fall semester. Marin’s only four-year university is offering a public health contact tracing course in which students will get to work remotely with Marin County Public Health professionals. Contact investigation and tracing involves discovering a person’s associations with other individuals who have tested positive for a disease and inform them of the need to be tested for possible exposure.

Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Lisa Santora said contact tracing is one of the key tools used to identify an individual who has been exposed to COVID-19 and provide them with important information around isolation and quarantining. Students in the Global Public Health class will be trained in the rules of contact tracing and technical expertise in public health software.

A team of public health faculty plans to provide leadership during the Dominican course and allow students to participate in a real contract tracing interview. If they develop their skills, the students potentially would provide supervised contract tracing themselves.

“What better partnership could there be than a university and a public health department to build a new workforce that responds to this pandemic?” Santora said. “To be able to partner with Dominican and show there’s critically needed employment in public health, we can provide opportunities for students to meaningfully contribute to a pandemic response. That is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

About half the people working on contact tracing now are volunteers. Although that inspirational spirit is needed to help limit the virus’ spread and tremendously appreciated during the crisis, it will take more than volunteers to effectively handle the demand in the coming weeks and months.

“We want to be prepared for the ebbs and flows of volunteers as we move forward in this pandemic,” Santora said. “And we also know that as the school year starts there will be more social activity and possibly an increased number of cases in our county. Having that workforce development opportunity with the university will have us better prepared as we see the increases in cases, which we do expect to see.”

The Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is providing funding for the online one-unit course. Although some spots will be reserved for nursing majors, the course is open to students of all majors. Course curriculum is in the development stage now.

See more information about the contact tracing course from Dominican University.


Dr. Lisa Santora
Deputy Public Health Officer
Health and Human Services

3240 Kerner Blvd.
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 473-4163
Email: Dr. Lisa Santora
Marin HHS website