Metro Public Health continues contact tracing as COVID-19 cases spike

Metro Public Health continues contact tracing as COVID-19 cases spike

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On Monday, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced the highest number of COVID-19 cases ever confirmed on a Monday since the pandemic began.

As Beshear and other state leaders deal with the rising number of cases, Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness has continued contact tracing, keeping track of who tests positive and who they may have infected.

“It is obvious that by letting our guard down this virus is definitely moving about our community," said Karen Handmaker, who is leading the city’s contact tracing efforts. “Back in May, we had about 30 cases a day here in Louisville. Now we have upwards of 200 or more.”

Organizers of a COVID-19 testing site in west Louisville said when Kentucky beats the virus, they hope the new normal includes changes for the African American community.
Organizers of a COVID-19 testing site in west Louisville said when Kentucky beats the virus, they hope the new normal includes changes for the African American community.

Handmaker told WAVE 3 News the increased number of COVID-19 cases means her department has hired more people to conduct contact tracing. She also said those employees are now calling more people who may have been exposed to the virus.

Lacuna Health was awarded the contact tracing contract back in May. According to new data from Metro Public Health, Lacuna’s 198 team members are calling over 1600 cases and contacts every day, speaking with roughly 650 people and completing interviews with 67% of cases, 46% of contacts, and 73% of people in isolation/quarantine.

The data also indicates Metro Public Health’s contract tracing team has closed 17,000 cases for people who tested positive. Cases are closed when individuals complete isolation and recover, are “lost to follow up”, have died, or other reasons. As of Oct. 5, there were about 1,000 people in assessment status. These are individuals the team is in the process of reaching out to complete their initial case interview.

As of that date, there are also about 1,000 people who are in “isolation” status. These are people who tested positive and are at home isolating.

“It takes a while for test results to flow through the system, from the myriad number of testing locations we have, and challenges getting that data into the system quickly," Handmaker said. "That definitely makes us lose time.”

Handmaker told WAVE 3 News lag time can be made up if people keep track of the individuals or groups they’ve interacted with over the past 14 days, and call Metro Public Health if they test positive.

Those who may have been exposed to someone who has contracted COVID-19 should call Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness at (502) 912-8598.
Those who may have been exposed to someone who has contracted COVID-19 should call Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness at (502) 912-8598. (Source: Mike Fussell, WAVE 3 News)

Over the past few weeks, restaurants and other establishments have created contact tracing lists for customers and patrons. Handmaker told WAVE 3 News those lists can also speed up contact tracing time if those places experience a COVID-19 outbreak.

Several schools have also established tracing lists for those who attend football games on Friday nights.

“We have a lot of people who are under 40, for example, who are getting COVID," Handmaker said. "And they may be getting it from going to sporting events or going back to school or traveling, or a sort of much more dispersed number of places or locations.”

Those who may have been exposed to someone who has contracted COVID-19 should call Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness at (502) 912-8598.

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.


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Get the WAVE 3 News app on ROKU, Apple TV and Amazon Fire. (Source: WAVE 3 News)