Philadelphia health officials continue to emphasize contact tracing as a crucial strategy to slow down COVID-19 cases. In Pennsylvania, whose last daily case load exceeded 6,000 infections, a strong contact tracing program was quickly set up when the virus broke out in the spring. It has since become a key element in the state’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Director of Testing and Contact Tracing Michael Huff discussed the push to track down potential cases before further transmission. Fox29 published his considerations.
According to Huff, contact tracking works as follows: Anyone who is a ‘close contact’ with an infected person – within 6 feet for 15 minutes – will be identified and contacted by a health official for evaluation and education.
As is already known, infected people are required to isolate, while close contacts are advised to quarantine for a two week period.
However, its implementation has had some difficulties. One of the main obstacles to contact tracking so far has been the unwillingness of the public to respond to a phone call from the health department. Some people refuse because of privacy concerns, while others simply see an unfamiliar number and ignore the call. Huff said the state is working on ways to overcome such obstacles.
Highly trained health officials
“We have to develop and maintain trust,” Huff said. “Right now public trust is not as great as it needs to be, I think people are concerned that information that may be requested or shared will not be kept confidential and not certain what people will do with the information.”
Huff assured viewers that contact tracers and government health officials are “highly trained” and “understand the need for confidentiality.” All names of contacts and infected individuals are kept private as part of Pennsylvania’s “extremely confidential process,” according to Huff.
As state health authorities keep using contact tracing, the coronavirus is now suspected of killing more than 250,000 people across the country.