Tracking coronavirus cases proves difficult amid new surge

Houston, TX — Health departments around the U.S. that are using contact tracers to contain coronavirus outbreaks are scrambling to bolster their ranks amid a surge of cases and resistance to cooperation from those infected or exposed.

With too few trained contact tracers to handle soaring caseloads, one hard-hit Arizona county is relying on National Guard members to pitch in.

In Louisiana, people who have tested positive typically wait more than two days to respond to health officials — giving the disease crucial time to spread.

Many tracers are finding it hard to break through suspicion and apathy to convince people that compliance is crucial.

Contact tracing — tracking people who test positive and anyone they’ve come in contact with — was challenging even when stay-at-home orders were in place.

Tracers say it’s exponentially more difficult now that many restaurants, bars and gyms are full, and people are gathering with family and friends.

“People are probably letting their guard down a little ... they think there is no longer a threat,” said Grand Traverse County, Michigan, Health Officer Wendy Hirschenberger, who was alerted by health officials in another part of the state that infected tourists had visited vineyards and bars in her area.

Her health department was then able to urge local residents who had visited those businesses to self-quarantine.

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