As coronavirus case counts soar, state contract tracing is being rationed

Written by on November 25, 2020

As coronavirus case counts soar, state contract tracing is being rationed

By Sarah Boden, WESA

November 25, 2020

Not every Pennsylvanian who tests positive for the coronavirus will hear from a case investigator or a contact tracer. There is a reason why this vital public health effort is being rationed. 

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With thousands of new cases being reported each day, the state says it needs to prioritize which people to contact. For example, individuals are more likely to be called if they’ve been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 in the past six days. Importance is also given to those who work in nursing homes or are part of disease clusters.  

Michael Huff, director of the state’s testing and contact tracing program, says another challenge public health workers encounter is that many people don’t respond to phone calls from case investigators and contact tracers.  

“Public health controls are only as effective as the willingness of individuals to carry them out,” says Huff.

However, with a lack of contact tracers, limited testing access and inconsistent messaging—particularly at the federal government level—the issue extends beyond individual choices.

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