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Missing personal information causing slowdown in COVID-19 contact tracing efforts

The Harris County Public District said tracking down people depends on the information labs provide.

HOUSTON — Health officials in Harris County are working around the clock to curb the threat of COVID-19.

It includes an army of epidemiologists who are tracking down positive cases.

Contact tracing along with washing your hands, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, have been proven to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Scott Jeansonne with the Harris County Public Health District said case investigators first need a positive lab result to start the tracing process.

“When did you become sick? What are your symptoms? Where have you been? And then through that interview process, that is when they actually get a list of contacts,” Jeansonne said.

He said contact tracers then reach out to that list not knowing if those people are infected or need to be tested.

Jeansonne said faster test results help reach people sooner.

“Now we’re getting to individuals two, three, four days after they got tested and so the compliance that we’re seeing on individuals wanting to get interviewed for cases has certainly increased,” he said.

He said tracking down people depends on the information labs provide.

“Some labs that send us results have everything,” Jeansonne said. “We have names, birthdays, address, phone numbers. We literally have everything. We have no problem. We reach out to the individuals and so our case interview.”

However, there are quite a few that have missing information which makes tracking positive cases harder.

"Sometimes we can do that in ten minutes, sometimes it can take a few days,” he said.

Also, the HCPHD may reach out via text message asking people to call back.

Jeansonne said this tool helps contact tracers reach a larger number of people faster.

“There’s only so many people that we can physically call per day and this text message platform allows us to reach thousands of people literally at the push of a button that otherwise may take hours or days for us to call,” Jeansonne said.

If you do get contacted by the health department, he said you can do your part in the fight against COVID-19 by answering their questions.

Jeansonne said text message will appear from a phone number listed as 346-229-1960.