What is contact tracing? A closer look at tracking the spread of coronavirus

Posted at 6:50 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 19:50:13-04

WISCONSIN — "Contact tracing" means having a team of "health detectives" in place to interview anyone who's tested positive for coronavirus, about their interactions with others. Then, notifying those other people about their possible exposure. It's believed to be a key component in stopping the spread of COVID-19 at the local, state, and national levels.

In TMJ4's "Safer at Home" Town Hall, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett revealed he's looking into utilizing some staff from Milwaukee Public Schools for contact tracing.

"We're working with MPS to see if we can use some of their nurses," he said.

The Mayor's office confirming Friday they've "begun the process of partnering with MPS and recruiting nurses."

MPS says plans are very preliminary, but the district wants to support the city's efforts.

Governor Tony Evers shared a similar message.

"We're hiring 1,000 contact tracers and hope to have more," Evers said during the "Safer at Home" Town Hall.

Karen Luczkowski - a retired nurse from Franklin - reached-out saying she, and other women she knows, want to help with contact tracing, but they don't hear back on how.

"They keep saying at these briefings that they need people to do it, but they don't tell people how they can actually volunteer or sign up to work," she said. "It's frustrating. The sooner we get this going, the sooner we can go back to a more normal way of life."

TMJ4 News shared Luczkowski's contact information with the Governor's team, which tells us Evers will call her directly. They also shared the website for people who want to volunteer for coronavirus response. You can find that here.

Meanwhile, Waukesha County has turned employees form the courts, and other departments, into contact tracers.

"They came in for five days of training, then they were set up and ready to go," said Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow. "They can do contact tracing from home with a shared database. We've created a training program so we can soon bring more people into it."

Farrow says a team of more than 30 county employees are now able to start contact-tracing within 12 hours of a COVID-19 case being identified.

"It really gives us the ability to stop any type of flare-ups," he said. "Proof of that is in the numbers."

According to Farrow, Waukesha County contact tracers have reached out to more than 3,600 people suspected of having COVID-19. The county has had 290 total confirmed cases, 103 of which are active right now. Farrow says everyone else has been cleared.

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