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Our best policy may be our best hope; Officials need honesty with contact tracing

Posted at 9:11 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 21:11:43-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As quickly as social distancing became a part of our vocabulary is how fast contact tracing might become our next “favorite” term. Coupled with testing, and without a vaccine, it might be our best hope in limiting the spread of COVID-19.

“We are currently contacting people who have been contacts of cases, and we’ve been able to increase our capacity to do that,” said Jessica Cobb, an Incident Commander with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

But speaking with those who’ve tested positive for novel coronavirus is not an exact science, and can only do so much.

“The problem with contact tracing is you have to work backwards. By the time you’re getting a hold of somebody who might have been exposed, they may have already been infected,” said Dr. Kathleen Winter of the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health.

Cobb cited another potential pitfall of person-to-person contact tracing in interview form.

“Sometimes people don’t want to be in trouble, or feel like they’re getting somebody else in trouble, because they know they’re going to be asked to stay at home for 14 days,” she said.

The program really has no choice but to rely on honesty from those being questioned, and it’s a big reason why it could fail miserably. GPS tracking is another option, but for those who feel it to be a violation of their privacy, it could create problems that are ultimately taken to the courts. Kentucky is not planning to use that method, for now.

“It still comes down to the individuals to follow isolation, or quarantine orders and stay at home and not expose other people,” Winter said.

Essentially, for now, we are the vaccine against COVID-19. Contact tracing is a part of the immunization’s mixture.