Through COVID-19 contact tracing, Riverside County is now reaching close to 100 percent of infected people and San Bernardino County is reaching nearly 70 percent. KVCR’s Megan Jamerson reports tracing plus testing is key to getting the counties moved to the next tier on the state’s re-opening scheme.
Lana Culp, spokesperson for San Bernardino County Public Health, says tracing has shown that a lot of transmission is happening through gatherings between family and friends. Which she says is hard to avoid in a time when seeing those people brings comfort.
“It’s a bummer that we are telling people to not do that but it seems like that is usually the case as to how people are getting sick, is from gatherings,” said Culp.
Contact tracing is a two-part process where first a licensed case investigator contacts the infected person. Then a tracer follows up to contact the people that person may have exposed to the virus.
Over the summer, Riverside County hired a team of over 500 contact tracers and case investigators. San Bernardino County hired a team of nearly 300 plus they get help from other departments. Their case investigators are reaching those infected within one day of results.
At first high case counts made it difficult for the teams to reach all positive cases. But now with case data trending downward in both counties, it is making it easier to reach most of those who are infected. San Bernardino’s Culp also attributes the success to people’s hard work at following social distancing and masking guidelines.
Michael Osur, Assistant Director for Riverside County Public Health says through every one infected person they are able to contact trace three more potentially infected people. He says this improvement plus continued testing is crucial to opening the county back up.
“That’s the only way we can determine how widespread the disease is," said Osur. "And the more people we test the better chance we have of moving from purple to orange on the state’s scheme."
Testing capacity and the turnaround time for results have been cut to three days or less in both counties. Officials are encouraging residents to get their free test at county testing sites.
They say testing is especially important for people who attended Labor Day gatherings.