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

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Eyewitness News got a first look inside the city of Houston's COVID-19 contact tracing program, described as contact tracing on steroids.

"We have been doing contact tracing since the beginning," said Dr. Kirstin Short, the chief epidemiologist for the Houston Health Department.

Inside the George R. Brown Convention Center, dozens of contact tracers were six feet apart, wearing masks and making phone calls.

They're working to track the spread of the virus.

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The city says the Houston Health Department received $26,158,905 from the federal CARES Act for this program.

They are authorized to hire 300 tracers, and so far, they have 232 employed.

On average, each tracer contacts and tracks 30 positive cases a week.

Their purpose is to develop a relationship with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, then notify the people who came into contact with that positive case, and keep those contacts home for two weeks in case they develop symptoms.

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In a recent interview, Houston's Health Authority Dr. David Persse said without interruption, one person could be responsible for the infections of up to 406 other people in 30 days.

Short said on average they reach about 64% of the priority cases assigned.

"Even if contact tracing isn't perfect, even if we don't get every single person in, each time we interrupt one of those chains, we're preventing that many more infections in the next 30 days," he said.

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