Uncooperative COVID-19 patients slow contact tracing process, put others at risk

Health officials are trying to keep up with the demand for COVID-19 testing as the state's case numbers continue to rise.

Hillsborough County reached over 10,000 positive cases of the coronavirus Monday.

The point of testing as many people as possible, they say, is to isolate infected people and notify those who may have been exposed so they may also isolate and not spread the disease to others. However, some who test positive are not being cooperative with the contact-tracing process.

Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the Hillsborough County - Florida Department of Health, said contact tracing to track the virus is becoming tougher.

“Disappointingly, we are seeing less cooperation from those that we reach out to,” said Dr. Holt.

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Those uncooperative carriers make it difficult for Holt's agency to track the virus and slow its spread.

Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health at USF Health, said testing for COVID-19 and contact tracing go hand-in-hand.

“If we know who's affected we can help control this and it's really important, particularly when we have a lower level of disease, to try to control this before it gets to be massive and spreads throughout the community,” said Levine.

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Contact tracing is voluntary, but public health experts hope citizens will recognize the process is vital to keeping the public informed.

“There's no end in sight. We don't have a treatment. We don't have a vaccine yet. We don't know when those are going to happen,” said Levine.