NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - In Nashville, the metro health department knows precisely how many people they’re tracing.
Statewide? Potentially tens of thousands.
They are people being tracked through “contact tracing,” which means they’ve come in contact with someone infected with COVID-19, and health departments are scrambling to find them.
One lawmaker tells News4 Investigates he’s asking if the state’s local health departments have the staff to adequately trace them.
The metro health department confirmed to News4 Investigates that they are currently “tracing” 466 people who have come in contact the 1,492 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Once sometime tests positive, health department investigators inquire who that person has come in contact with and lives with, and goes so far to find out the size of the cubicle they work in.
If someone has come within six feet for ten minutes with the infected, then they too could be ordered to be quarantined for two weeks or longer, depending on how long the infected has been contagious.
Businesses are being alerted that they too would be notified if their worker is being “traced.”
“They should also consider this not an if, but a when,” said Lisa Waller, epidemiologist with the metro health department.
To handle this contract tracing, metro has expanded those tracing people from a department of four to forty.
But Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, said he’s been asking the state health department for days for answers as to how they are tracing people who have come in contact with the infected, given that rural health departments don’t have the staff to do so.
“The problem is, we have local health departments and they’re doing a good job. But they were not created and funded to deal with the biggest health crisis we’ve seen in decades,” Stewart said.
News4 Investigates asked Dr. Lisa Piercy, commissioner of the department of health, exactly how many people they are tracing across the state.
“It’s actually an interesting question. About how many people we are tracing. My epidemiologist might know that, I haven’t heard that. I would get it. I would venture to guess it would be in the tens of thousands,” Piercy said.
News4 Investigates asked why Stewart had not gotten his answer to the state’s plan, and Piercy said she was available at any time to discuss their plans with anyone.
Piercy also acknowledged that local health departments were not staffed to do contract tracing, which is why, next week, she is bringing on an additional 150 workers to handle contract tracing.
News4 Investigates has asked specifically for how many people are being traced and will report that number when we receive it.