The healthcare tool called ‘contact tracing’ for COVID-19 in Tennessee


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — COVID-19 researchers worldwide have talked about what’s called contact tracing to help control the coronavirus, but what is Tennessee doing with it.

“Contact tracing is the way we try to determine people who a sick person may have come into contact with while they are infectious to others,” said Dr. Mary-Margaret Fill of the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH).

She has sometimes appeared with Governor Bill Lee and TDH commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey during COVID-19 briefings.

One of Dr. Fill’s duties with the state health department is contact tracing.

She said 350-people are involved statewide in the process.

They call a sick person about the individual’s comings and goings if COVID-19 is suspected or diagnosed.

“That is where they talk through every little step in what that person has done from the time period about two days before they became ill– up until the time period of the interview,” added Dr. Fill.

The TDH doctor says right now in early May is a critical time for contact tracing with some shuttered businesses re-opening.

“We recognize that as we start to re-open and people might be out and about more than they have been in parts of the state, that its critically important that we promptly identify cases and interview them and understand who they have come into contact with,” said Dr. Fill.

She said contact tracing is not unique to COVID-19.

The process goes on for other communicable diseases like measles or tuberculosis.

Dr. Fill added that contact tracing for the coronavirus has been going on since early March with no end yet in sight.

TDH said another 100-state workers from other departments have been trained to help with less specialized parts of contract tracing and monitoring cases.

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