Refusing to talk to contact tracers

Caduceus(Associated Press)
Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 4:50 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota’s response to the pandemic relies on data collection, and not just the numbers. The state’s contact tracing team has been getting staffing upgrades, but it turns out many of the close contacts are not cooperating.

To see where the spread is going, health officials try to get ahead of the virus with their contact tracing team. But some tracers haven’t been able to get the information they need because of a wide range of responses to their calls.

Contact tracing started out as one of the strongest arms of the pandemic response. But after a spike in cases, being able to make all the calls became a challenge.

Thanks to recent staffing boosts, most cases have their calls wrapped up within 24 hours.

“I think this is ahead of most states. Contact tracing is only a single part of a concert of efforts to prevent spread,” said Regional Epidemiologist Shawn McBride.

But having people making the calls is just one half of the equation.

McBride said that people refusing to answer to give information has become a common report.

“People at times have had some hostility towards our case workers. I, myself, have experienced some hostility when working with people,” McBride said.

Lynne Plucker, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, went on a camping trip with family. She said the calls were easier thanks to the low number of people and places.

“If we had been home and hanging out with friends and going about our normal life, I can imagine it being a lot more difficult to remember every single person and every single place you’ve been,” Plucker said.

Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., recently adjusted the quarantine policy: allowing those who wore masks at the time of close contact to be exempt from needing to quarantine. He said we hopes this will take pressure off the staff. McBride said tracers don’t share information.

Rather, the information is used so that the close contacts can make their own safety decisions for themselves, their families, and their jobs.

Copyright 2020 KFYR. All rights reserved.

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