Is contact tracing still a practical way to track new COVID-19 cases?

JCDH on COVID-19 contact tracing

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - Imagine having the daunting task of contacting everyone who’s been infected with COVID-19, and everyone they’ve interacted with.

Well, that is the daily task of contract tracers, and medical experts say it’s becoming more complicated to do.

Medical Director of Disease Control of the Jefferson County Department of Health, Dr. Wesley Willeford said early on in this pandemic, there really wasn’t a lot of movement in the community, so contact tracing was easier to do.

But of course, with more people moving around outside the home, one person has a higher number of people they interact with, making contact tracing a much more difficult task.

Dr. Willeford said the Jefferson County Health Department has about 60 to 70 public health workers, who have taken on the task of contact tracing, trying to call everyone an infected person has come in contact with.

He said the department is trying to get more people to take on this role, but as Jefferson County averages about 200 new case of COVID-19 a day, some wonder how effective contact tracing really is.

“Even if it’s not perfect, if you’re able to reach a few people to slow down the spread of the virus that’s able to spread very easily between one person to the next it still has a positive impact,” said Dr. Willeford.

“Every single person that we’re able to pull out of the pool, so to speak, who have COVID-19, or potentially they’ve been exposed, and they may develop it, if they’re not out there, that’s that many fewer cases that we have to deal with on the other side,” Dr. Willeford explained.

Dr. Willeford said the department is doing its best to keep track of the new cases of the virus, but he freely admitted that not everyone can be reached.

He said if you are contacted by the health department, please heed the advice given.

However, if the person calling starts asking for personal information like your social security number, or your credit card information, hang up, because that is not the department contacting you.

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