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Contact tracing key in fighting COVID-19 in Ector County

Public health officials in Ector County have become full-time investigators, piecing together where positive COVID-19 cases have been.

ECTOR COUNTY, Texas — The Ector County Health Department is doing what they can to stop the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing.

Contact tracing allows the health department to notify and monitor those who may have been exposed to the virus.

Health investigators and contact tracers spend all day making calls and mapping out people in our community who may have been exposed to the virus.

It is a small group of people, only about a dozen or so, but they are making a huge difference.

“They contact the individuals, ask them questions about where they've been and who they’ve been around," said Brandy Garcia, Director of EC Health Department. "They also request a contact list from them and we relay that over to our contact tracers.”

The health department says they have contacted over 1,200 people and counting.

On average, with each positive case they contact 13 people who may have been exposed.

Every person contacted is asked to self-isolate and report any symptoms.

“It makes us see that we are stopping the spread by doing isolation," Garcia said. "We contact those confirmed cases on a daily basis, the investigators ask them how they’re doing and if they're having any symptoms." 

Amrinder Chahal, the Ector County Health Department epidemiologist, says contact tracing has been a game changer.

The Ector County Health Department is doing what it can to stop the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing. Contact tracing allows the health department to monitor those who may have been exposed to the virus. I got an exclusive look at how the Ector County Health Department is doing tracing today. Coming up at 6 on @newswest9 I’ll have the full story!

Posted by Sammi Steele on Monday, May 11, 2020

“Contact tracing is the bread-and-butter of this pandemic, after testing there needs to be tracing," Chahal said. 

Without it, the virus would likely be more widespread in our area.

“Social distancing, it’s not going to work if you don’t separate the positives from the negative," Chahal said. "So our health department has done a good job in that aspect.”

As time goes on, these tracers will be even more valuable to the county.

“With things re-opening I’m pretty sure we’re going to have more contacts to work from," Chahal said. "So we are just monitoring this very closely but we do know that our confirmed cases from now on are going to have more contacts." 

It is not just the health department that is helping with contact tracing.

University of Texas Permian Basin nursing students along with Texas Tech residents are helping, too.

The health department says the more help they can get to stay on top of this virus and keep hospital capacity low, the better.

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