COVID-19 contact tracers say they're reaching more people

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As metrics have remained fairly stable during the past few months, contact tracers are continuing their outreach.

"I do see that people are receptive. They're willing to hear us out, and let us explain the guidance, offer resources and clear up any questions that they might have. Whereas in the beginning, I think there was a lot more skepticism, is this a scam, is this a legit call? So in those terms, it's definitely gotten better and we've been able to reach more people," said Marlene Kurt, Wake County's Contact Tracing and Monitoring Supervisor.

Kurt said the goal is to reach 1,000 to 2,000 people each week.

"Everyone will receive a digital notification. And that will include details about their quarantine and isolation dates, and links to resources in the community, and also some information on how to get ahold of us," Kurt said.

NCDHHS reports there are 2,000 full-time and part-time staff supporting contact tracing at local health departments, including 1,248 people hired as part of Community Care of North Carolina. Of the 1,248 Community Care of North Carolina contact tracers, 36% are bilingual.

Outside the work being done at the county level, state health departments work with counterparts to make sure people who travel out of state and are potentially exposed are notified.

"So as people get tested, depending on the address that they list when they get their test, that will determine how that test is routed either to that state or to that county," said Dr. Nicole Mushonga, Wake County's Associate Medical Director.

Along with increasing vaccination rates and the 3 Ws, contact tracing is key to stopping the viral spread.

"Many people don't have symptoms, so contact tracing is really key in letting people know you might be carrying, you need to be on the lookout for these symptoms," Kurt explained.

Dr. Julie Casani, the Medical Director of Student Health Services at NC State, is helping oversee campus contact tracing efforts. In an e-mail to ABC11, she wrote in part, "...with transmission rates <1%, we haven't been as busy this semester as last. All in all, people have been pretty accepting and compliant with the program."

A Harnett County spokesperson said they are "still working in collaboration with Community Care of North Carolina to contact close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases," adding that "the volume of calls related to exposures and contacts have decreased since vaccinations have begun."

Contact tracers reach out through a variety of different methods, including phone calls, text messages, and e-mails. They do not identify the individual who tested positive, nor if that person was infected with a variant strain.
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