WVU in the News: Contact tracing key to stopping spread of coronavirus

As Pennsylvania reopens, contact tracing will be critical to further stop the spread of COVID-19, says Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

Contact tracing involves tracking down people who had close contact with individuals infected with COVID-19 to make sure they aren’t also carrying the infection and spreading it. Once close contacts are located, they are tested and, if positive, required to quarantine for 14 days.

Levine said the commonwealth plans to hire additional contact tracers and to use an electronic data surveillance system.

Contact tracing is a significant part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to ease coronavirus restrictions, which includes having fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people during the previous 14 days and sufficient contact tracing.

“Our testing and contact tracing plans will ensure that as we begin to safely resume our daily activities, we can do so safely and without fear,” said Levine during a recent press conference.

Testing and contact tracing are intended to isolate the people with coronavirus, so others can return to work and patronize businesses with less fear of getting sick.

“We don’t have any treatment or vaccine for this virus and the disease it causes. Absent a vaccine, contact tracing is a pillar of our strategy to manage this disease,” said Dr. Christopher Martin, a professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, which partners with Washington & Jefferson College to offer a masters degree in biostatistics. “It’s the only tool we have to understand how the virus is spreading and limit the forward transmission of the disease.”

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