Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new contact-tracing program that will identify coronavirus patients and those who have come into contact with them in an effort to safely open more businesses in the state.
There are 1,371 contact tracers trained in the state as of May 12, including members of the National Guard and the Department of Licensing and local health officials. They will interview coronavirus patients to get names of people with whom they have been in close contact. Those exposed will be asked to stay inside for at least two weeks after the date they interacted with the person who was sick.
The identity of the sick person will be kept confidential, according to a release by the Governor’s Office, but tracers will ask for age, ethnicity, address and gender.
According to a survey conducted by National Public Radio, states had plans to put more than 66,000 people to work following up on infections and informing people who may have been exposed. That’s 30,000 more people than when the network first surveyed states at the end of April.
The figure is still vastly below estimates of the need.
A letter cited by NPR and signed by public health officials suggests that the country will need more than 100,000 people to fully conduct contact tracing across the country.
Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that people who have been exposed need to stay at least 6 feet away from others for at least 14 days and to monitor their temperature and other symptoms regularly.
Washington was one of the first states hit by the coronavirus. King County alone has more than 7,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and hundreds of people who have died of the disease. Those figures are likely only a hint at the total number of cases in the state, however.
Many people who have the coronavirus are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and aren’t immediately able to get tested for the disease, meaning they can spread coronavirus without being aware.
Shortages of testing supplies hampered the initial response and even people with symptoms couldn’t necessarily get tested. Even those who did could have gotten false results, depending on the test.
President Donald Trump denies that people in the United States have difficulty getting tested for the coronavirus while also saying that testing revealed more coronavirus cases, raising the numbers for the country.
“When you test, you have a case,” Trump told reporters. “When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
Read more in the May 20-26, 2020 issue.