More than 1500 people working to track COVID-19 cases in Virginia

Virus Outbreak Contact Tracing
Posted at 3:27 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 16:57:13-04

NORFOLK, Va. - More than 1500 people are working as case investigators and contact tracers to track COVID-19 cases in Virginia, according to State Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver.

Oliver provided updates to reporters in a phone call on Wednesday afternoon. "Unfortunately, COVID-19 has not taken the summer off," he said. "COVID-19 has continued to spread in communities across Virginia."

The spread is of particular concern in Hampton Roads, where beginning Friday the region will face more restrictions to try and flatten the curve. Oliver says tracers have determined the increase in cases has been caused by younger people packing bars and restaurants or attending big social gatherings.

"It becomes more complicated when someone has been in a large gathering, a large crowd. You have to try to identify who they've been in close contact with," he said.

A close contact is considered someone who's been within six feet of someone for more than 15 minutes. Next week, the health department is hoping to launch an app that will people determine if they've been exposed. A lot of people will have to use it in order for it to be effective, Oliver said. "In order to be effective, we're talking hundreds of thousands, millions using this app," he said.

Another complication has been delays in testing results coming back. Health officials can still do contact tracing, but it's more difficult. "The delay in test time results is a big challenge to contact tracing," he said.

The disease will be with us for a while. Preliminary results of a serology study done with UVA show just 2.4% of adults in Virginia have antibodies to COVID-19. "The big takeaway from this is that the overwhelming majority, a large portion of the population, is still vulnerable to infection and we must continue to take precautionary measures," said Oliver.

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