Contact tracers overwhelmed by increasing COVID-19 cases in Tennessee

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee reopens and people shop, eat out, and enjoy summer activities protecting against possible COVID-19 exposure is not so obvious said infectious disease doctor, William Schaffner.

“There are people who have no symptoms what so ever who are capable of transmitting this virus,” explained Dr. Schaffner, “So contact tracing is very very important.”

Yet as cases spike in our state, contact tracers have an overwhelming task at hand. “There are many more infections. It’s much more work to trace all those people,” Schaffner said.

Which means you may not be notified if you’ve been around someone with COVID-19. “I’m concerned. Unless everybody gets with the program,” said Schaffner, “I think we’re going to have a continuing problem.”

When the pandemic began, contract tracers could quickly identify and notify small clusters of people exposed who would then quarantine. That’s no longer the case explained Schaffner, “They’re going to gatherings, in bars, religious services, and other group events. We need to back off a little bit.”

Increased interaction means, for the first time since March, the State Health Department acknowledges half of the cases in Tennessee are from an unknown source. “Anybody can be a source of this virus. You could be source of this virus,” warned Schaffner.

Until people understand protecting themselves is a new way of life, Dr. Schaffner fears flattening the curve slips further in to the future.

“We all have to wear a mask all the time, and for how long you’re going to ask me? A long time.”

Local experts have said Tennessee should have as many as 2,000 contact tracers. Currently, the State has about 700. The Department of Health says they have contracts with two agencies to bring in more people to help.

COVID-19 in Tennessee

(This reflects what the TDH is reporting each day at 2 p.m. CST for every county other than Davidson. Information for Davidson comes from the Metro Public Health Department.)

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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