LIMA — Local contact tracing efforts are increasingly hampered by people violating their quarantine and isolation orders, a trend which threatens to unravel a key strategy to keep the coronavirus from spreading too quickly.
“We have people who absolutely refuse to not work, whether it’s for economic reasons or whether it’s for personal motivation and drive,” said Tami Gough, director of prevention and health promotion services for Allen County Public Health.
But Gough said there are others who don’t believe COVID-19 is a serious disease and who in turn do not take their isolation or quarantine instructions seriously.
The problem extends beyond individuals, as Gough said some employers are not cooperating either.
“Employers need to weigh if it’s worth it to be short on workforce because you’re allowing the quarantining to happen, or to take the risk that you’re insisting that an employee work and could potentially infect all your employees to the point where you don’t have a workforce for a few weeks,” Gough said.
Contact tracing is an essential part of public health’s response to COVID-19, allowing health departments to identify people who were exposed to the virus and may be contagious without symptoms to quarantine for up to 14 days.
Likewise, people who test positive for COVID-19 are asked to isolate themselves, typically at home, while they are still contagious so as to prevent the virus from spreading further in the community.
The average person who tests positive for COVID-19 in Allen County has at least five close contacts, Gough said, while others have had many more.
Allen County was put on red alert, or a Level 3 Public Health Emergency, last Thursday after the county reported 76 new COVID-19 cases in two weeks, prompting a mandatory mask order to take effect the next day.
Much of the spread has been attributed to large gatherings and travel to COVID-19 hotspots.