HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - News 3 took a deeper look into the contacting tracing in the state of Virginia.
Leaders with the Virginia Health Department said they have hired 1,200 people to work as contact tracers since the pandemic hit.
They said they also have 70 people on their flexible, deployable regional teams. Local health departments can request those teams if they are needed or if they are seeing a surge in positive COVID-19 cases in their community.
“The purpose of contact tracing is really to break the chain of transmission,” said Elena Diskin, a VDH Epidemiologist Program Manager.
She said contact tracers call people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
They provide resources, tell them to quarantine and ask them questions like who they have been around.
Contact tracers also call those people who have potentially been exposed if the person providing their name has their contact information.
Since September, the state health department says they’ve attempted to call 57% of cases, which is equal to roughly 240,000 people. They say the other 43% are either people living in places like prisons or long-term living facilities, or the health department didn't have the manpower to call them due to the overwhelming number of cases.
The number of cases have fluctuated, and contact tracers have not physically been able to call everyone, especially when they are experiencing a surge.
Health department officials say of the total 240,000 people they have reached, 36% of people provide contacts to health department of others who have potentially been exposed. The other 64% either don’t have contacts to report, refuse to give the information or don’t know the contact information.
The health department reported that out of all of the identified contacts, they interviewed 92% of them. They said when they enroll them in symptom monitoring, they get an automated text for each day of their quarantine, checking in and asking if they have any symptoms. They said this helps them know when it might be needed to follow up again.
They say the information collected is confidential and is not shared with anyone outside of the health department.
Seth Levin is another VDH Epidemiologist Program Manager. He said their goal is to provide information and education to people who have tested positive and others with whom they have been in close contact, as well as to provide recommendations to help prevent the future spread.
They say monitoring the data and warning people of potential exposure helps to keep the public safe.
“I think it's really critical to let the public know that we want to work together; that contact tracing only works if the public is working with public health,” said Diskin, “and realizing that contact tracing is only one piece in the puzzle. Continue to wear a mask, wash hands and get your vaccine when your time comes.”