Shocker: NYC contact tracing program off to a “slow start”

Infected people are hard to locate and reluctant to give up their contact info.
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According to the NY Times…

Since June 1, NY has been ramping up its Covid test & trace program.

About 50,000 people are being tested each day.

  • Note: Scant info is reported on who is being tested … People with symptoms? Curious people without symptoms? Random samples?

The goal is to contact everybody who tests positive … and then identify and contact everybody who has recently come in close contact (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) … and urge the contacts to get tested and self-quarantine.

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Sounds easy enough, right?

So, what’s the problem?

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For openers, about 15% of the people who get tested provide a wrong phone number or address.

The good news: Of the 85% who provide accurate phone numbers, somebody eventually answers the phone.

But, it may not be the person tested … or the answerer may be “unresponsive” to the caller … either hanging up or stonewalling the questions.

Specifically, only about 1/3 are willing to disclose the names of their friends & family, let alone their contact info.

According to experts:

New York City’s 35% rate for eliciting contacts is “very bad.”

“For each person, you should be in touch with 75% of their contacts within a day.”

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Why the “slow start”?

Officials running the program lay the blame on:

  • Inexperienced tracking personnel
  • Privacy concerns
  • Distrust of gov’t callers
  • Lack of strong gov’t mandates that require people to give up the info re: their contacts and venues visited

Geez, who would have guessed that?

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So, how to accelerate?

To boost the response rates, they’re hiring more contact trackers who “ live in communities hard-hit by the virus, which are predominately black and Hispanic” … and starting to send them to people’s homes to solicit the information.

And, officials salivate over the possibility of stronger gov’t mandates comparable to those in other “model” countries:

In South Korea, for example, people at weddings, funerals, karaoke bars, nightclubs and internet-game parlors write down their names and telephone numbers.

Apartment buildings, stores, restaurants and other private businesses are required to collect visitors’ personal information.

And, authorities have access to cellphone location data, credit card transactions and even closed-circuit video footage to identify and isolate potential contacts.

Good luck with that.

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Takeaway

Hate to say that we told you so, but see our prior posts: Help Wanted: Vice President of Contact Tracing & Testing

It was easy to see this one coming.

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