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How contact tracing helps slow the spread of COVID-19

"When we call you and we let you know that you're positive, were actually trying to figure out who else did you come in contact with," Annette Rodriguez said.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As Coastal Bend COVID-19 numbers increase, a way to track down how someone is exposed has become more important to slow the spread.

Scientists call the process contact tracing.

"Where do you work? Do you work in a healthcare setting? Do you work in a nursing home? Have you been at any large events?," Public Health Director Annette Rodriguez said. 

She said those are a few of the common questions that contact tracers ask patients.

"When we call you and we let you know that you're positive, were actually trying to figure out who else did you come in contact with," Rodriguez said. "Contact tracing takes a lot of work and a lot of time we really try to make sure that for every contact tracing that they do, did they get that person and all their contacts completed within a 48-hour time period?"

Rodriguez said it takes many phone calls and research but it can save lives. 

"The reason its so important is because that is the only way you're going to be able to isolate quickly." Rodriguez said. "If they're never told that they were in contact with that individual, for whatever reason, they don't know they have it. They don't have any symptoms so they can actually be out and about spreading the disease."

The health department started with around five contact tracers in the beginning of the pandemic and have expanded to nearly 25 with the increase in numbers 

"In the early days, we were actually contacting all of those," she said. "We only had 2 positive. We were talking to them. They would say they had 20 people that we came in contact with during that time period. We would get their names, their phone numbers and we would contact each one of them."

Because of the growing number of positive cases, contact tracers can fall behind on calling those who were in contact with someone who tested positive.

"We have to find other ways where we can still notify these individuals and still get them quarantined," Rodriguez said. "So we have turned to putting the responsibility on the individuals that's positive with COVID-19."

Rodriguez said her team is working hard to get in touch with those who have been exposed but they also need help from the community.

"Make everyone of those contacts like if it was your mom or dad," she said. "It's that important. We're all in this together. This is our community. We have to do our part."

For the latest updates on coronavirus in the Coastal Bend, click here.

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