AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the rise in positive COVID-19 cases also comes an increased caseload for Austin Public Health’s contact tracers.
“Every positive case, we call,” said Flor Ayala-Hernandez, an epidemiologist who has been part of APH’s contact tracing program since the beginning of the pandemic.
That means asking patients about the symptoms they’re experiencing, where they think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and where they’ve gone since.
“We can find if they were exposing other people during the incubation period,” Ayala-Hernandez explained.
But she says there’s a big obstacle. Many people don’t want to share their experiences.
“Sometimes they don’t want to talk, or they don’t want to share information that can affect other persons,” she said.
Ayala-Hernandez says that’s because some people believe their employers will be notified or even immigration. But she says their contact tracing information is confidential and important.
“That’s the only way that we can find clusters or what is happening with the community. If people [are] not sharing this information with us, we are partially blinded,” Ayala-Hernandez said. “We need to know where cases are happening, so we can act proactively and try to avoid more spreading.”
That includes providing more resources in certain areas if needed or adjusting messaging campaigns.
APH is also urging more testing to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and the delta variant.
On Wednesday, they announced they will reopen two neighborhood COVID-19 testing sites: George Morales Dove Springs Recreation Center and St. Johns Testing Site.
“With the presence of the Delta variant, access to free testing will be an important tool to catch disease early and guide our other efforts – including vaccination, case investigation, and more,” wrote APH Interim Director Adrienne Sturrup in a press release.
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