BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - There is a lot of detective work going on across the state.
As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in Mississippi, contact tracing efforts are being strained.
The state department of health has teams of contact tracers across the state. They call every person diagnosed with COVID-19 to learn who they have been in contact with. They then call those people to tell them they have been exposed.
There are three teams of about 20 people each in the Southern District of the state made up of nurses, disease intervention specialists and clerical staff. Their job is to focus on two main questions: where infected people have been and who they’ve been around.
They are simple but critical questions that are crucial to knowing who may have been exposed and try to make sure others aren’t also infected.
“It’s real important to get these numbers and statistics so we can kind of look at what’s going on and who is being affected,” said Christy Barnett, Regional Health Officer State Department of Health.
Staff on the teams and epidemiologists will look for links between cases that might reveal a common source. Any large gathering of people has the potential to spread the event. Everything from church to recent demonstrations can put people at risk. So, too, can simple family gatherings.
“Most of it has been community transmission, family members, that’s how most of the cases [have spread] they realized,” Barnett said.
The health department initially hoped the spread would decrease during the summer but the opposite has happened, making it difficult to do the contact tracing in a timely manner.
“We have a good amount of staff, but the numbers keep increasing. If people would do what they’re asked to do — to try to limit the spread and the numbers could go down for a little bit — that would help us a lot,” said Barnett. “Wear the mask, don’t gather in large groups, social distancing — things like that, we could slow the spread a little bit, get through the summer. Our concern is the fall is going to be worse.”
The state health department has said they expect numbers of coronavirus cases to increase in the fall, making the increase of cases in the summer even more alarming.