Contact tracing imperative to curb spread of COVID-19

Reporter: Taylor Petras Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Florida Department of Health in Lee County. Credit: WINK News.

More people are reportedly testing positive for the coronavirus in the United States and in Southwest Florida. We looked at what one of our region’s health agencies is doing to respond to the current surge in cases.

At Florida Department of Health in Lee County, Jennifer Roth says she and her COVID-19 response team are working around the clock to keep up with the rise in cases. There is a big focus on contact tracing to stop the spread of the virus.

“We actually try to get to most of our cases every single day,” Roth said. “I think, for the most part, we do a good job.”

Roth has about 50 crew members investigating and making phone calls to people to tell them they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

“Every single time we do contact tracing, we can identify someone that you spent a long time with,” Roth said.

We asked the health department if they could tell us the number of cases traced back to specific places, businesses, schools and parties. Roth told us they don’t release that information because of patient privacy.

“It would have to be a pretty worst case scenario for us to put something out to the public,” Roth explained.

A scenario when information might be released could be a giant event such as the Super Bowl.

Roth says the biggest challenge they face is getting people to answer the phone.

“A lot of voicemails and a lot of inability to leave messages, a lot of people who don’t return our calls, a lot of people who think we are spam; they don’t know if they were real,” Roth said. “I’ve had people personally tell me there’s no way you could be the health department because it’s Sunday night, and I know the government doesn’t work on a Sunday night.”

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