Contact tracers say some people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 aren't responding to calls

Officials say more cooperation with the contact tracing program can help slow the spread of the coronavirus.


Contact tracing is being used to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by notifying people who have been exposed to a patient who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Officials in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, said a contact tracing program is only good as the public's participation, and people who may have been exposed aren't calling contact tracers back.

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health runs a $25 million contact tracing project there, which got underway about three weeks ago.

"Once someone has tested positive, they tell us who they may have been in contact with before they became sick," said Patrick Osborne, the supervisor of the contact tracing center.

Contact is defined as closer than 6 feet for more than 10 minutes, with or without a mask, in the 48 hours before a patient felt sick.

Workers with LG Health have spoken with 403 COVID-19 patients who reported having contact with an average of three or four other people.

"The team that we have inside really cares about the individuals that we're contacting," Osborne said.

Contract tracers then reached out to the people who have been exposed to the coronavirus. So far, that's 680 people.

Officials said nearly half of them never call back.

"We would definitely like to see more participation," Osborne said.

Workers reach out in a variety of ways, including phone calls, text messages and email. Workers may even send a letter.

"There's really no reason to be afraid of the process. We're going to keep the information confidential, and it's really to help protect people and it's really to help protect the community," Osborne said.

"The more people participate, the better job we can do," he said.