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Alabama health department says widespread coronavirus transmission is backing up timeframe for contact tracing

ADPH said it just hired an additional 200 contact tracers.

Posted: Jul 24, 2020 6:50 PM
Updated: May 4, 2021 11:19 AM

The WAAY 31 I-TEAM pressed the Alabama Department of Public Health for more information about contact tracing.

We learned the department doubled the number of contact tracers from 200 to 400 and the University of Alabama at Birmingham's school of public health is now involved in making calls.

We talked to one man who said he learned he had the virus more than a week ago but is still waiting for a tracer to call.

Dr. Karen Landers with the health department said she no longer has a timeline on how long it could take to hear from a contact tracer, as people with coronavirus question its effectiveness.

Eric Lindstrom said he learned he was positive for coronavirus on July 15, about a week after going to Huntsville Hospital's Fever and Flu Clinic.

"I'll be out of breath when I walk upstairs and sometimes my chest will feel like it's seizing up, like I have a straight jacket on," he said. "I tested positive. They reached out to me saying the state department would contact me with further information, and I'm still waiting on that call."

WAAY 31 asked Landers why Lindstrom is still waiting for that call.

"With widespread community transmission and the numbers we've had, it has drastically extended our time to do contact tracing," she said.

Landers wouldn't say how long it's taking, but said they want people who have the virus to take initiative to tell others they've been in contact with.

"We actually have urged people if they have another contact they're aware of outside of the household intimate partner to let that person know they are a positive COVID-19," she said.

Lindstrom told me the process seems pretty useless right now.

"It's ineffective right now. The longer they take, the greater risk of exposure for other people. People will spread the virus. Especially asymptomatic people who aren't feeling the symptoms and have no need to get tests," Lindstrom said.

He said if he's contacted, it won't be easy to determine who he was around more than two weeks ago.

"I'd have to look at bank statements or something to see where I've been," he said.

Landers said currently, the department is putting an emphasis on having contact tracers contact people who work in correction facilities, long-term care facilities or anywhere they're seeing an outbreak in less than 24 hours after they learn of the positive cases in hopes to stop more people from getting sick.

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