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Steve Bauman — Volunteering to Help Stop the Spread

Nominated and written by Shelley Hebert

When the early news of COVID-19 began raising concerns about rapid spread of the virus, Steve Bauman began following expert medical and scientific updates from places like Johns Hopkins and Stanford University. He understood quickly that one of the most important ways to protect people would be through interrupting the chain of transmission. The process to identify, inform and educate those who have been exposed by someone who has tested positive for the virus is key to containing the pandemic.

Even before the Santa Clara County Public Health Department began recruiting volunteers, Steve reached out with an offer to contribute his time and skills. In late April, he agreed to join the first cohort of several hundred people who would be trained to do case investigation and contact tracing in our area. He soon learned that leading this effort would be Assistant Health Officer Dr. Sarah Rudman, Beth Am member and daughter-in-law of long-time Beth Am members Ric and Roberta Rudman.

The early stages of the training were a bit like building a car while driving it. Numerous databases and platforms had to be integrated, while at the same time, knowledge about the virus continued to evolve. Vitally important issues had to be resolved in real time, sometimes with feedback from volunteers and County staff who had been reassigned from other roles to be part of this massive new public health undertaking.  

Despite the challenges, Steve was inspired by the commitment he saw at every level. “Everyone you come in contact with who is working on this really wants to do the right thing and help the community,” he said. “It is the number one reason why I am finding this so rewarding.”

Steve has been working eight-hour days, three days each week for about seven weeks so far. After being notified of new cases (people who have tested positive), he begins by calling these individuals, offering guidance and trying to gain their trust to provide the names and contact information for others they may have exposed. Sharing the unfortunate news with that larger group is the next step, along with education and instructions about quarantining. For those who do not speak English, an interpreter may need to be involved.

So far, Steve has followed-up on about 50 cases. Reaching people can be difficult and there is a procedure he follows if after calling twice daily for three days, he is not able to connect with someone. He participates in regular briefings to provide the latest information that needs to be communicated to people who have tested positive.

Steve plans to continue volunteering at least through December. “It is tiring mentally, but very fulfilling,” he says. As someone who has given so much in so many ways to our community in the past, he knows that this kind of avodah is not just a day’s work — it is the work of a meaningful life.

For information and the volunteer application to assist with investigation and contact tracing, visit www.sccgov.org.

Sun, September 20 2020 2 Tishrei 5781