Health department urges everyone to answer phone for contact tracers

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Local health experts say contact tracing is a good way to help contain the coronavirus, but some people are not participating. 

Contact tracing is when health officials work to figure out where a sick person has been and who they have been in contact with so everyone can get tested and be monitored for COVID-19.

Participating is easy — all you have to do is pick up your phone when a tracer calls. But the Kent County Health Department says some people aren’t.

According to the Kent County Health Department, about 70% of people who test positive for the virus give contact tracers good information. Thirty percent don’t call back or respond to a text seeking information. Some simply refuse to provide information.

There is no legal obligation to participate, but health department epidemiologist Brian Hartl said there are negative health effects.

“If we are not getting that full picture, then we’re not able to do our job correctly and adequately and we are putting our community members at a higher risk of transmission,” he told News 8 Wednesday.

If people who may be infected aren’t tested, they can continue to spread the virus. That would sicken or could even kill more people.

“If we can get as many people to answer our phone calls as possible, as many people to give us the accurate and timely information that we need, that’s how we can best do our job and best limit the spread of this and hopefully get back to a more normal lifestyle,” Hartl said.  

The health department says the other problem it is dealing with is people refusing to isolate themselves after testing positive.