Dallas County contact tracing all COVID-19 positive cases

Dallas County Public Health Director Dr. Philip Huang said Thursday that Dallas County has contact traced or is in the process of tracing all of the county's 9,587 COVID-19 cases.

As businesses and churches reopen, the CDC says communities need large numbers of trained case investigators and contact tracers. But contact tracing is a huge task -- identifying and contacting people who were exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Huang told Dallas City Council members Thursday morning that the county has an additional 150 volunteers from area medical schools helping to assist with contact tracing, bringing the county's total paid and unpaid contact tracers to 330.

“We are fortunate we have been able to do that with help of 180 volunteers working 7 days a week. That is why it’s important to still do prevention things so we can keep numbers low and not overwhelm these systems,” Huang said.

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But locating and notifying the contacts for just one sick person can take a contact tracer a full day.

Huang told Dallas City Council members that the county may be partnering with Parkland Hospital to use technology to aid with contact tracing. One example would allow people to receive a text message that they may have been exposed, and then ask them to fill out an online survey of their potential contacts.

The CDC describes contact tracing as a specialized skill that requires resourcefulness to locate contacts who may be difficult to reach or engage in conversation. The agency says contact tracers also need to understand medical terms, be able to build trust with contacts, and recognize if someone needs to be referred for further care.

The CDC defines close contact as someone within six feet of you for 15 minutes or longer.

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