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Contact-tracing program aims to spread safety at Miami Beach businesses

Verónica Zaragovia Feb 10, 2021
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The North Beach Bandshell is an outdoor performance venue in Florida’s Miami Beach that’s part of a contact tracing program called Race to Trace. Verónica Zaragovia
COVID-19

Contact-tracing program aims to spread safety at Miami Beach businesses

Verónica Zaragovia Feb 10, 2021
Heard on:
The North Beach Bandshell is an outdoor performance venue in Florida’s Miami Beach that’s part of a contact tracing program called Race to Trace. Verónica Zaragovia
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Contact tracers help stop the spread of COVID-19 by tracking down anybody who comes into contact with somebody who tests positive for the disease. Tracers spend a lot of time on the phone with people who might have been exposed. They call to make sure those people quarantine away from the public.

In December, the city of Miami Beach, Florida, started a contact-tracing program called Race to Trace for hotels, restaurants and arts venues. The goal is to help those businesses operate more safely.

At the North Beach Bandshell in December, singer Ceci Leon performed during the venue’s first event that was open to the public. For most of the pandemic, this outdoor stage streamed its events online, but on this night, 150 people were allowed in, seated 6 to 8 feet apart. All wore face masks. 

Attendees agreed to give their names and contact information to the Rhythm Foundation, which manages the place.

“We actually have a personal liaison from the Department of Health who is in constant contact with me,” said Benton Galgay, a director at the nonprofit, which joined Race to Trace.

That contact tracer asks for a guest list if anyone tests positive. The Department of Health has seven contact tracers available to Miami Beach businesses. One of their jobs is to establish relationships with the companies they follow and provide safety training. The program is funded with a $455,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

So far, about 50 companies have signed up. The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort in Miami Beach is one of them. Patrick Fernandes, a company director, said the training and support have been helpful.

“It certainly has allowed us to be more confident in our ability to operate a business during a pandemic,” he said.

Carillon has passed along information about two positive COVID-19 cases so far, Fernandes added.

“I love working on it, personally,” said Marina Pravdic, a manager on the project for the Rockefeller Foundation. One priority is to protect workers in the hospitality industry, and many of those workers are Black or Latinx — “two of the communities that have been the most disproportionately impacted by this pandemic,” she said.

When the program ends in August, its success will be measured by how many businesses signed up, how many people the contact tracers reached and the number of employees who said they felt safer at work.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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