Marion County health director claims 80% COVID-19 contact tracing success

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INDIANAPOLIS– Marion County Public Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine says Marion County’s success rate for COVID-19 contact tracing is about 80%, three points higher that the state average.

An impressive figure, but what does it mean?

“If I went and tested positive, I get reported to the state as a positive case. Their contact tracer contacts me and gets my general information and who I have been in contact with within a recent period of time,” explained Christian Walker, Hamilton County Public Health Preparedness Coordinator. “That contact tracing is ever so important for us to delve into how people are getting it, who they’re exposing to it and those type of questions that help us curb this.”

The seven-day average of daily positive test results is 6.9% in Hamilton County, far below Marion County’s seven day average of 9.4% and the state average of 7.4%.

Analysts say the seven day daily positive test result average needs to be five percent to control the outbreak of new coronavirus infections.

In the last week, the Indiana State Department of Health has expanded its daily data dashboard with figures that paint a statistical picture of the pandemic’s spread through Indiana.

“The contact tracing process helps these numbers,” said Dr. Brian Dixon of the Regenstrief Institute. “So when there’s a pretty high success rate like 77 or 80% of contacts being captured and contacted by the health department, that means that those individuals have the recommendation and the opportunity to be tested for the disease, so if it is spreading among those contacts, we will pick it up and those numbers will be reflected in the numbers we see on the dashboard.

“Through the contact tracing I think we’re beginning to see a pattern that a lot of the spread is happening in group settings.”

Indiana’s rate of infection has leveled off after a precipitous climb in July as Governor Eric Holcomb and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett rolled back some of the loosened executive orders put in place to curb the spread of the disease.

“I can tell you by looking at zip codes that at least in our county the majority of the positive cases since the beginning of all this have been in the southern half of the county,” said Walker. “That’s where that contact tracing becomes so important and the honesty of the person who tested positive to say, ‘Well, I attended my nephew’s graduation open house and here’s who was at that that I’m aware of,’ and then working it that way. But as far as you and I stopping on the corner and talking as we walk the dog or whatever, the interaction or the risk of exposure is rather limited. Even in the enclosed environment of going shopping at the grocery store, even if we pass each other in the aisle, as long as we’re both wearing our masks and we’re not lingering, having lasting conversations at arms distance, I think we’re doing okay.”

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