Can contact tracing slow or stop spread of COVID-19?

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Contact tracing has been a tool for fighting the spread of HIV for years. Now, experts say it could also help slow or even stop the spread of COVID-19.

But is it enough?

Contract tracing is being used in Collier County, which has had more than 400 people test positive.

“If you do test positive for COVID-19, we go back 48 hours from the time you’ve become symptomatic. We get a hold of everybody that you have had close contact with,” said Kristine Hollingsworth with the Florida Department of Health in Collier County.

Hollingsworth said they’ve contacted “thousands” of people.

“It’s a very extensive and intensive process,” she said. “We have staff members participating in these efforts every day, seven days a week.”

Even with those efforts, Dr. Bindu Mayi with Nova Southeastern University, said cases can still fall through the cracks.

“It makes it easier for contact tracing to actually stop the spread of the virus if it’s a virus that is only contagious when there are symptoms,” Mayi said. “Whereas in the case of this particular virus, even asymptomatic individuals can be contagious.”

More testing is also key.

“Once we do testing, we will have a better sense of how many people out there are infected already,” Mayi said.

The doctor went on to say that knowing how many people are actually infected can help when it comes to plans to reopen the country.

“We really need to have a sense of what the prevalence rate in the community is, how many people are actually infected,” she said. “Right now, we are seeing our peak resource date getting pushed further and further out. What that means is we are really flattening that curve. So if we open up prematurely, what that will do is get us going towards that peak again.”

Health experts say contact tracing, more testing and social distancing will all help until a vaccine is made.


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