FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) -- Contact tracing for COVID-19 began back in March in Allen County, but those in charge of the tracing, the Allen County Department of Health, are well short of the number of tracers needed.
Department Administrator Mindy Waldron says, "we often refer to our team as small, but might and they are.”
The contact tracers are just one step in helping slow the spread of COVID-19, but a big one.
They tell you if you should go to the hospital or just stay home, answering any questions you may have.
This is vital for not overwhelming hospital systems, something Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter is concerned about as hospitalizations rise.
"If we overwhelm the hospitals, not only can’t they take as good of care of COVID patients, but they can’t take care of other emergencies like heart attacks and victims of motor vehicle accidents," Sutter said.
So while having tracers is good, there’s a problem. One measure p
ut out by Harvard says a county the size of Allen should have 100 contact tracers. Waldron says they only have 10. That's partly due to lack of money and space
Waldron explained, "We have been lucky enough to utilize some of the CARES Act dollars to add several contact tracers over the last several months, but we’re also limited by space, so we can only house as many as we can house. So, right now that’s what we have."
So right now, the 10 contact tracers work six-to-seven days a week, taking on twenty to thirty cases a day, which Waldron described as "A difficult situation.”
However, they’re doing the job with one of the highest efficiency rates in the state, reaching nearly 95% of the people they need to.
They're also getting help from school nurses and school district HR people, who Waldron says does the lion's share of contact tracing when a case develops in a school.
Waldron says that they likely only need about 20 or so contact tracers to both do the job effectively and avoid burnout, and they’re currently hiring, trying to fill those spots
"I think if we can get a couple more, that will definitely assist for the next few months," Waldron said. "Then perhaps we bolster it again if funds allow."
If you’re interested in becoming a contact tracer for the Allen County Department of Health, click here to view the job posting