Governor Gavin Newson on Tuesday outlined the state’s strategy for relaxing the coronavirus stay at home order, emphasizing the importance of tracking and tracing those who’ve been exposed to the virus.
The process is called “contact tracing” and it can alert us if we come in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
San Diego County already has a team of “communicable disease investigators” who attempt to identify and notify everyone who has been in direct contact with an infected patient. Those people can then quarantine themselves, which greatly reduces the risk of spreading the disease to anyone else.
Gerardo Chowell is an epidemiologist with Georgia State University who studies the spread of coronavirus across the nation. Chowell told NBC 7 Investigates that public health officials in San Diego must develop a strong contact tracing system before residents here can get back to work and school.
“I think it would be hard to conduct an effective contact tracing system right now, when the (infection) levels are still substantial,” Chowell said. “But perhaps in a couple of weeks, contact tracing will be even more effective, because the chain of transmission will be more scarce.”
There have been requests to increase the number of contact tracers, and health officials acknowledge it’s not a perfect system.
Tracers might not be able to reach everyone who has been in close contact with the infected person, and those contacts might not follow all the guidelines to help arrest the spread of the virus. But public health experts say the process will definitely reduce the transmission of coronavirus.