Cameron County only has 20 contact tracers calling thousands exposed to COVID-19

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas – Cameron County is short handed in an almost unimaginable way.

As the southernmost county in Texas battles COVID-19, contact tracing is the responsibility of less than two dozen employees.

“It’s not enough. If you look at the projections, to make it work perfectly, you need something like 600 [people].” Said Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo.

Dr. Castillo added that the 20 contact tracers have called thousands of COVID-19 positive individuals and those they’ve potentially exposed.

The calling is a vicious cycle of dysfunction.

As wait times for results vary from days to weeks, many grow impatient and break CDC self-isolation recommendations.

“This is why we have to keep talking about the importance of people doing everything they can to not get this virus,” Dr. Castillo said. “This is why we saw shelter-in-place orders, right? Because at a certain point you just can’t keep up with it.”

Keeping up is an almost impossible task.

While the wait time for results is long, if a positive person stayed home until the results are in, it could slow the spread significantly.

“In about a week that person is almost past their contagious period,” Dr. Castillo said. “If a person breaks self-isolation, they may have already caused all these infections. Then trying to chase those people down and then get them tested. You know, you’re not moving fast enough to make it effective at trying to reduce the outbreak.”

For updated COVID-19 statistics in Cameron County click here.

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