Contact tracers hitting roadblocks in New Jersey as COVID-19 pandemic drags on

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Contact tracers say they hitting some roadblocks as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

We got to speak with one of the communicable disease investigators in Camden County who has been working non-stop.

During the big spike in cases we saw this spring, this health department actually trained people from other county departments to serve as contact tracers. They say for the most part people are cooperative but, as time goes on, more challenges are popping up.

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Rianna DeLuca has been a communicable disease investigator for Camden County for about two and a half years, but COVID-19 changed everything.

"It got very busy very quickly," said DeLuca.

A big part of her job is contact tracing - one of the key components of New Jersey's reopening plan.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying those who come into close contact with someone who has tested positive - that's anyone who was within six feet of the positive person for more than 10 minutes - and asking those people to isolate and watch for symptoms.

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But since New Jersey's reopening started, parts of DeLuca's job have gotten more challenging.
"Now they're traveling more, they're going down the shore. So it's hard for them to remember where they were," said DeLuca.
And as summer goes on, officials are tracing some cases of transmission to parties, and some attendees aren't always willing to give up information.

"We are struggling with the stigma of social gatherings right now. And we are asking for everyone's cooperation because this isn't about what you were doing. This is about preventing the spread. It's a community effort," said Caryelle Lasher, Assistant Public Health Coordinator for Camden County.

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Officials here in Camden County say the information they collect also helps them learn more about the virus and how it's spreading.

The state of New Jersey has also hired a team of contact tracers to supplement those at the county level.

The City of Philadelphia recently hired more contact tracers, bringing the team to more than 100. But health officials say they are also hitting roadblocks, so they're planning a media campaign to encourage people to cooperate.

"There's no downside to working with the contact tracing team," said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. "Participating means helping other people, and it can be life-saving."
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