Butler County commissioner with coronavirus: ‘I know the tracers are not being successful’

Credit: NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Several Butler County leaders who have suffered through the coronavirus recall different experiences with the health district’s contact tracing efforts to battle the pandemic.

The county commissioners held their weekly meeting virtually on Monday, with Commissioner T.C. Rogers presiding via WebEx, Cindy Carpenter on the phone and Don Dixon absent. All three contracted COVID-19 and are recovering.

During a discussion on the county’s allotment of $6 million for a COVID-19 testing and, eventually, vaccine distribution program, County Administrator Judi Boyko said officials would begin contacting health care providers this week to let them know they can contract for up to $50,000 — below the threshold at which bids are required — to provide COVID testing.

A request for proposals will go out next week on the broader testing and vaccine distribution program.

Carpenter said an educational component to the testing portion would be “priceless” because information contact tracers may be providing isn’t helping.

“I know the tracers are not being successful,” she said. “I can say that everyone involved understands that the tracing after the fact isn’t working and that people who are sick are not so interested in hearing more about COVID education.”

ExploreButler County leaders sick with the coronavirus

When people test positive for the coronavirus, the health district and departments are tasked with contacting them and quarantining others with whom they might have been in contact. West Chester Twp. Trustee Ann Becker started feeling symptoms on Nov. 8 when her “everything bagel didn’t taste like anything,” and she received her positive result four days later.

She said she was not contacted by the Butler County General Health District until much later. She said the tracer asked her when she tested positive and with whom she had been in contact but didn’t inquire about her symptoms.

“If I had given her a list of names, would she have called them all?” Becker said. “Since I had not been anywhere, the contact tracing didn’t really apply to me. I can’t say it’s not working because she called, but it had been almost 10 days since I had been symptomatic.”

Butler County Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer said there were 1,623 positive cases reported to the county’s public health departments last week. The county has about 150 grant-funded contact tracers in addition to staff at the three health departments doing the work.

“We are doing our very best, but we simply cannot keep up with that amount of surge in new positive cases,” Bailer told the Journal-News. “What we really need is for everyone to stay home as much as possible, wear masks, and stay apart. This, much more than contact tracing will drive down our numbers.”

Rogers said the health department reached out to him within a half a day of his positive COVID-19 test a couple weeks ago and “they actually found out before I did.”

Carpenter said the health district contacted her three times while she was ill.

“The action of warning people that they’ve been in contact with a positive COVID patient doesn’t make any difference,” Carpenter said. “That person could have been in contact with multiple COVID patients. It’s too widespread, we probably all have had contact if we’re outside of our homes.”

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