A ‘Herculean task:’ Contact tracing may be the weapons to stop the spread of COVID-19
Contact tracing has always been used to stop the spread of communicable diseases.
The practice was especially important in defeating smallpox and is being used once again to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“It’s a process by which we identify and notify people who had contact with someone [with COVID-19],” says Morris County Health Officer Dr. Carlos Perez.
Morris County has had over 5,000 positive cases of the virus, along with 413 deaths, according to the New Jersey Department of Health. Every one of those 5,287 patients has had to have their contacts traced by the Health Department – finding every person with whom they encountered to enforce a two-week quarantine.
In a county of 490,000 people, this can be a “Herculean” task, according to Perez. This is why the Morris County freeholders are hiring more people and enlisting the medical reserve corps volunteers to help.
Some countries in Asia are using mobile apps to help with tracking the sick and those they encountered.
One called “Trace Together” has become popular overseas. It uses Bluetooth to log when two app users have been close to one another, allowing the government to access that information.
But an app like this may not go over well in the United States due to privacy concerns. Gov. Phil Murphy says that no decision has been made regarding using an app to track patients.
“It’s going to be, I believe, a combination of manpower, boots on the ground and technology,” he said.
The governor told News 12 New Jersey that his staff is looking at options.
“Our team has been kicking the tires on a range of technology. Trying to figure out, is there a Holy Grail?” he said.
Technology may be necessary for a state of 9 million people to stop the virus from spreading.