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State to use classic epidemiologic technique to try to curb coronavirus spread

COVID-19 Update: Community Tracing Collaborative Announced to Further Mitigate COVID-19 Spread

Gov. Baker announced today that a non-profit group working with the state is hiring 1,000 "contact tracers" to interview Covid-19 patients and find out all the people they may have come in contact with to follow them and get them testing and care if needed.

The first-in-the-nation system is based on models that have been used for decades to try to contain disease outbreaks, for example, in 2014 with Ebola in West Africa.

The non-profit Partners in Health will hire and oversee the tracers for the new Massachusetts COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative, while the state Department of Public Health will maintain the database of contact and create guides for tracers to follow. The Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority will build a call center for the tracers and their data collection - with help from consulting firm Accenture and Salesforce, a company that specializes in tracking people contacted by an organization.

"This is a key effort in the Commonwealth’s work to slow the spread of the virus by adding capacity to reach individuals who have come in close contact with individuals are confirmed positive for COVID-19," Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said.

WBUR has more details on how the system will work.

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Comments

How is that going to work when they only test first responders, healthcare workers, high risk persons with symptoms, and Presidents of Harvard?

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I feel this comment was petty when MA is doing and making progress far beyond other states. We've had almost 63K people tested. Baker actively got private resources when out PPE supplies were seized TWICE!

He has done every step w/o any FED support. I don't agree with your comment.

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Voting closed 6

sick and isolating yourself for 3 weeks per doctors recommendations, eventhough you are unable to get a test! People like me are not counted in the states total cases and I personally know a few other people in the same boat. Someone that works in healthcare told me that the vast majority of people that come in/call in sick and probably have it are not being tested. Is someone going to go through all of these peoples locations/contacts as well? Is this the part you disagree with?

Are they doing a good job with what they have? Sure, maybe. No argument here.

Is it enough?

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Voting closed 14

Tracking down the people who came into contact with those who tested positive for Covid-19 gives a means to target testing. For example, right now I feel fine, but let's say that last Saturday I came into contact with someone while at Roche Brothers who tested positive. If the person is interviewed and says "I was at Roche from 3 to 3:30 on Saturday," they can try to track down people who were there then and test them. Carriers can be better quarantined that way. Also, if I were then tested and found positive, they could test those people who were in contact with me after exposure and test and quarantine them.

Great initiative by PIH.

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Voting closed 44

To re-open the State economy. Without this sort of testing and tracking, we stay locked down until there's a vaccine, or a large drop in numbers (with a risk of another wave sans vaccine).

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With the reports of asymptomatic carriers it might be a key thing to know who has immunity to it and can remain active in the workforce in later waves and who needs to isolate or otherwise take more precautions. Knowledge is power, in this case the more information we have about who is an active carrier and who has immunity are two pieces of knowledge that are critical to bridge the period until there is a vaccine widely available.

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Voting closed 17

Going to be doing the testing? Great idea "tracking" down the perps. Some snappy uniforms designed by Hugo Boss perhaps? I just get a little creeped out when benign "non profit" groups not only collect data but amalgamate it with other databases and send it off to who or (Hu)? One more thing: how does this square with HIPA laws and a bunch of other by now outdated civil liberty ideas?

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Voting closed 3

Perhaps you have seen on the news in times past a warning going out that someone was diagnosed with the measles. They are asked where they were in the time they would have been contagious and people who were in those locations (who haven't been vaccinated) are strongly encouraged to be tested. The problem today is that there are too many cases for that kind of work to be done by the front line health care workers.

But hey, if you want to ignore notices of possible exposure and potentially infect a bunch of people, that's on your conscience.

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This is not only a way to effectively target testing, it is a result of an increase in testing kits available.

Notice that there are several drive-up clinics in MA opening this weekend?

Contact tracing is also more effective now that the pattern of symptoms of COVID is better known and differentiated from the flu.

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Voting closed 5

I agree. While I think this is a great move in principle, I don't see how it can work under the current testing situation. It would only be successful if tests are provided to anyone with symptoms, or even suspicion of having become infected. I understand from people that many hospitals apparently don't have the means to do that, even now, but it would seem that problem should be addressed before contact tracing could be effective. Let's hope that changes.

Also, it's not enough to tell people who have apparently mild symptoms they should just stay home for two weeks as if they were positive, because they don't qualify for testing under current protocols, as hospitals are now doing. For one, the virus can last for weeks in people, and they may feel they are safe to go out after that arbitrary time period. Second, they may feel that after they "had it" they no longer need to worry about getting it again after the two weeks, taking unnecessary risks. Third, it puts an unreasonable burden on them, especially if they must go out for groceries or family reasons. Fourth, it poses a dilemma of: Do they tell everyone they might have been infected or not, when they don't even know, causing them possibly unnecessary distress? And fifth, it's unsustainable psychologically -- think of how many times people have similar symptoms because of a cold, flu or allergies in one year?

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Yes, looking at the data MA has been testing 4-5K per day and while that's a lot better than many states, it has not increased recently. If people who have symptoms are still being turned away for testing, I fear that this initiative will make that even more common. It seems to me that someone with symptoms should be a priority over someone who was in a grocery store at the same time as someone who tested positive.

It may be that this is both too late (too many cases to do this effectively) and too early (not enough tests).

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Voting closed 7

This is a good step. It's what has worked so well in S. Korea and Singapore. However, it would have been less difficult and more effective if we'd been able to do it when case numbers were low, if only the Feds hadn't turned down the WHO test.

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One of the biggest problems, if not the biggest, has been the lack of testing, regardless of what the great leader says.

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