Restaurants asked to contact trace as COVID-19 cases spike

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Thursday, August 13, 2020
Houston welcomes help on contact tracing if businesses are up for it
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Houston welcomes help on contact tracing if businesses are up for it.

As the number of coronavirus cases in Texas surge, contact tracing is becoming increasingly difficult.

For each person who is confirmed positive, the goal is to contact people they may have come across and get them in contact with resources they need to slow the spread.

"Are we where we need to be today? No," said Marlene McNeese, an assistant director at the Houston Health Department. "But I do think there has been support to help us get there as quickly as we can."

As both Houston and Harris County are struggling to keep up, some of the responsibility for tracing has been placed on businesses in places like Austin.

READ MORE: City of Houston slowing spread of virus with 'COVID-19 contact tracing on steroids'

In Austin Mayor Steve Adler's "Stay Home, Save Lives" order issued on June 15, all restaurants allowing customers to dine-in and other reopened businesses with a capacity of 75% or less in the city are encouraged to keep a log of who visits the business.

Section 7 of the latest order suggests businesses log dates and time of service, where each person sat or was served, and contact information for all inside or sit-down customers and employees.

Businesses are only required to keep the logs for one month to maintain the privacy of customers, according to the order. Also, logs are property of the business that created them, not the city, and can only be used by officials if they're needed for contact tracing. The logs cannot be used for law enforcement purposes.


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