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DHEC identifies more than 1,800 contact tracers

Staff Report //May 12, 2020//

DHEC identifies more than 1,800 contact tracers

Staff Report //May 12, 2020//

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The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has identified more than 1,800 contact tracers to support the state’s efforts to respond to COVID-19.

Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist, said DHEC set a goal with partners at accelerateSC, a task force made up of health care, education, business, and government officials created to develop a coordinated economic revitalization plan for the state, to identify 1,000 contact tracers by May 31.

As of Monday, DHEC said it had increased its contact tracer staff members from 20 to 400 and retained another 1,400 through contracts with private staffing companies Apple One and C-Trace. The agency said 667 members of the public have also expressed interest in becoming a contact tracer through DHEC’s contact tracing webpage.   

Contact tracers identify individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus based on test results obtained by health agencies, then contact those individuals to obtain information about people with whom they’ve recently had contact and provide them with access to resources to follow health protocols.

DHEC commonly uses contact tracers to track and help limit the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis.

“With increased testing there will be an increase in the number of positive cases reported,” Bell said in a news release. “This means we will need to increase the extent of its contact tracing, and we are prepared to do so.”

On Monday, DHEC announced additional COVID-19 mobile testing clinics in several S.C. counties, including Richland, as well as the launch of a webpage to share information about those clinics and others to be scheduled.

DHEC announced 140 new cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina and 15 deaths on Monday, bringing the state’s totals to 7,792 cases and 346 deaths. Also on Monday, the agency began the first of three announced phases of COVID-19 testing in all S.C. nursing homes.

Updated DHEC projections estimate 10,493 cases in the state by the end of May, or 900 new cases per week.