What coronavirus contact tracing looks like in Alabama

ADPH said they've used contact tracing for decades and have no plans to use technology with it in the future.

Posted: Apr 15, 2020 4:21 PM
Updated: Apr 15, 2020 10:08 PM

All week we are looking at what the new normal may look like when Alabama is expected to re-open on may first. One of the biggest fights against coronavirus is contact tracing.

The state told WAAY31 it's contact tracing standard is summed up like this; if you test positive an ADPH employee will call and interview you to find out everyone you've come in contact with then contact that person and isolate them, if needed.

Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health, said their contact tracing is getting a lot of attention but it’s been around for a while.

"This is not something new and part of contact tracing is basically to identify the person that's been infected and then also the person that's been in close contact with that person," said Landers.

Landers said contact tracing works because it connects the dots to isolate the right people. Public health employees are doing interviews over the phone and tracing the outbreak, which takes time and people power. ADPH's Doctor Scott Harris said, you should expect to see the department rearrange workers and possibly ask for help.

"We have just about quadrupled the number of people and we plan to add a lot more so we can get them up and get them trained so we can continue to do this," said Harris.

Landers said the state might start using medical students to help trace. Some countries and tech giants are now looking at tracing patients via phones and data. For instance in South Korea coroanvirus patients can voluntarily be traced by the government through their phones, or they are given bracelets that have tracking technology in it. Landers said that won’t happen in Alabama.

"We do have to consider privacy issues that could be related with using that technology in the United States," said Landers.

Using technology to trace coronavirus patients and the legalities of it is up in the air. Landers said stopping the spread of the virus is number one but a patients privacy must, at all costs, be considered.

"This is a health issue and while we do need to know this information we want to treat these patients as we would want to be treated in terms of our privacy," said Landers.

The director of the CDC is also focusing on aggressive contact tracing. It said up to 100,000 tracers could be needed.

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