While It May Seem Controversial To Some,
Contact Tracing Is Vital Part Of Reopening
Gov. Andy Beshear says that contact tracing is an important part in reopening Kentucky’s economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. While it may seem controversial to some, it is not new.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contact tracing means monitoring the contacts of infected people and notifying them of their exposure.
While the phrase has become linked to COVID-19, it has been an established tool used by public health officials to reduce the spread of infection—in particular, sexually transmitted diseases—for decades. Contact tracing has been credited with helping to eradicate smallpox.
“It is not our first rodeo,” said Kathy Crown-Weber, director of the Mercer County Health Department.
There have been only 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Mercer County. So far, everyone has recovered and no one has needed to be hospitalized. Crown-Weber said her staff has had to trace contacts to other counties and helped trace contacts in Mercer for residents of other counties who were infected.
“We were able to do just fine,” she said.
Other counties, which have been hit by 20-30 new cases a day, have not been lucky. On Monday, Gov. Beshear announced that Mark Carter will serve as executive adviser, leading the contact tracing efforts in the Office of the Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Carter will work closely with Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack and public health staff. Carter is a certified public accountant and has 40 years of experience in the health care industry.
The state’s contact tracing program is funded through the federal CARES Act. The program is expanding to meet both the White House and Governor’s benchmarks for safely reopening the economy. Each state and territory is using contact tracing as a tool to fight the spread of COVID-19.
Carter said the expanded seven-month contact tracing program combines public participation and the power of technology to help public health officials and health care providers contain the spread of COVID-19. He said information provided is kept completely private and confidential. Information regarding the individuals who have COVID-19 and people they have made in-person contact with recently is not released or made public.
Under the state’s program, public health workers will reach out to those who have contracted COVID-19 to assess their situation and track any recent in-person contacts.
Contacts will be notified they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and provided instructions and connected to local resources.
While the state is hiring workers to perform contact tracing, Crown-Weber said there was no need for extra help in Mercer County, which currently has no active COVID-19 cases.
She said contact tracing is based on voluntarily given information. The person who tests positive is asked to provide information on those who have been in close contact (less than six feet for more than 30 minutes). Frequently, the person who tested positive will contact those folks first so they know the health department will be calling.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Crown-Weber said her staff has never contacted a business before the infected person did.
While some have expressed concerns about possible violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, Crown-Weber said that was not the case.
“We’re getting permission from the person testing positive,” she said.
As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19, there were at least 8,069 coronavirus cases in Kentucky, 164 of them since Monday. In addition, there were 20 new deaths Tuesday, raising the total to 366 Kentuckians lost to the virus. At least 2,826 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus.
Across the world, there are currently 4.9 million confirmed cases according to worldometers.info. COVID-19 has killed 323,017 so far.
The United States remains the epicenter of the pandemic, with over 1.5 million confirmed cases. The disease has killed 92,588 Americans while 360,058 have recovered. In the US, New York has been the hardest hit state. So far, 361,266 residents have been infected and 28,280 have been killed.
While Kentucky is reopening, Gov. Beshear said Kentuckians need to remember the coronavirus is still out there.
“We need you to think through your contacts and make sure you’re doing it at a low level,” Beshear said. He called on people to self-isolate if they test positive.
“You’ve got to be willing to do what it takes to protect other people,” the governor said.
Kentucky reopening schedule.
Here is a schedule of when other businesses and activities may resume, provided there are no spike in the number of infections. For more details, visit https://govstatus.egov.com/ky-healthy-at-work.
Monday, May 25
Monday, June 1
Auto/dirt track racing
Aquatic centers—not public pools
Kentucky State Park lodges
Salato Wildlife Education Center
Friday, June 11
Kentucky Horse Park
Kentucky State Park Campgrounds
Monday, June 15
Youth sports (low touch and outdoors)
Groups of 50 people or fewer