DHEC pushes contact tracing program to fight virus


MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina health department says it is prepared to perform more contact tracing for COVID-19.

SCDHEC says as testing for COVID-19 testing increases in the state, so will the need for contact tracing.

Contact tracing is a process that involves interviewing people who have tested positive about those they have come in close contact with. Then, tracers connect with the contacts and offer guidance to them.

Experts say this is a critical process in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

“Contact tracing is very labor intensive,” Debby Borst said. She’s the infectious control nurse for Myrtle Beach. “It’s time consuming. But it’s been a fundamental public health tool for containing infectious diseases.”

Borst added that it plays a role in getting things back to normal.

“Scientists and health experts say reopening the economy will take contact tracing of new infections,” she said. “Until you have herd immunity, an FDA approved antibody titer test or a vaccine, contact tracing is really the most scientific method of tracking cases.”

SCDHEC has ramped up its contact tracing efforts. Normally, the agency says it has around 20 tracers. As of Friday, that number was 230. DHEC says it is capable of investigating up to 3,450 contacts per day for COVID-19.

North Carolina has more than 250 contact tracers with local health departments, its state health department says. It aims to increase that to at least 500, as well as deploy digital tracking tech.

A report by the Association of State and Territorial Health Official takes a look at the need for testing and contact tracing. It includes estimates for contact tracers needed across the country, including in North and South Carolina.

DHEC says its current capacity exceeds its current need, and that it will be able to do more as it scales up its contact tracers.

Read that here.

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