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Calling for unemployed to be city contact tracers

“I see it as an opportunity"
Posted at 5:23 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 17:53:49-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Contact tracing is an important strategy in fighting COVID-19. That’s why a Buffalo lawmaker is calling for the unemployed to become contact tracers.

“There's many people who are unemployed and especially in the zip code with the high infection rate — 14215,” said Rasheed Wyatt, University District Common Council Member.

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Rasheed Wyatt, University District Common Council Member.

Wyatt is only concerned about the high COVID rates in his district, but also high unemployment caused by the pandemic.

The Buffalo Common Council adopted a bill sponsored by Wyatt that calls on the Erie County to recruit and hire unemployed residents to be contact tracers.

“I think it’s really important that we work with Erie County to make certain that we have individuals who represent the large majority of neighborhoods to assist in that contact tracing,” Wyatt stated.

Wyatt said its critical tracers come from neighborhoods where they live because they will understand the dynamics of that community.

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Buffalo's 14215 neighborhood.

“When you're familiar with those neighborhoods you understand the community health centers — you understand where some of the pharmacies are and the different resources that someone may need if they're infected,” Wyatt explained.

One east side community member is stepping up her knowledge about tracing the spread of COVID.

Diann Holt is executive director at the Durhman's Maternal Stress-Free Zone on Eagle Street in Buffalo.

Holt took a course on contact tracing so she can learn as much her about her community as possible.

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Diann Holt, executive director at the Durhman's Maternal Stress-Free Zone.

“Contact tracing is not something that's brand new. They do it all the time, Holt said.

Holt’s maternity program remains closed because of the virus. But Holt became certified as a contact tracer by taking the on-line course from Johns Hopkins University.

However, Holt said she has no intention of being a tracer, but wants to help moms in her community. Holt's program provides several services for pregnant women on the east side.

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Durhman's Maternal Stress-Free Zone operates inside the A.M.E. church building on Eagle Street in Buffalo.

Both Holt and Wyatt say being engaged in the community is the best way for contact tracers to fight COVID in the city.

“I see it as an opportunity for individuals to play a role significantly and be a contact tracer,” Wyatt replied.

“We really need to look our doctors, our community leaders — people within the community to give us what they understand as truth,” Holt responded.