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Contact tracing intensifies as COVID cases surge across WNY

Last week the Erie County health commissioner announced that seven new tracers would be added, bringing the county's total to 69 contact tracers.

DEPEW, N.Y. — Less than 24 hours after breaking April's record high for daily hospitalizations, the state announced that Western New York hit a new all-time high.

As of Sunday, there have been 275 daily hospitalizations in Western New York due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

The more cases, the more hospitalizations: makes sense.

In addition to stressing the importance of following public health mandates and practices, experts are also stressing the importance of contact tracing and just how effective it can be when trying to slow communal spread. 

But how?

Essentially, what this means is, following the virus' footsteps in an effort to find the origin of infection and stop it before it continues to move.

2 On Your Side spoke to a Depew mother of five whose youngest son, a toddler, is currently undergoing contact tracing after she was informed he had been exposed to an employee at his daycare days before she who tested positive for COVID-19.

For privacy reasons, this mother asked to remain anonymous, but she shared lingering concerns drove her to contact the Department of Health after the daycare told that her son could return if they didn't hear back from the DOH.

"After thinking about it," she says, "if he was around someone who tested positive, he should not be going to daycare, he should be quarantining."

As part of the tracing process, since last week, she has been responding to calls and daily automated prompts from the DOH to check-in on her son's status, mainly whether he is showing any symptoms.

To date, she says, he is asymptomatic. 

"Every day I get a text message saying his initials, and then his age, and it says we're just checking in with you do you have any symptoms. Press one for yes, two for no."

It's simple, she says, but after calling for the first time, it did take a bit of effort to get the call back for tracing to begin.

Come Friday the toddler could be cleared to return to daycare by the DOH. As to whether he will, his mother says she is unsure as to whether she feels comfortable sending him back, despite how much she really does like it.

"I would like to know how many teachers quarantined, because I know for a fact that he was in another classroom, and therefore those teachers were exposed as well," she said. "So I am a little nervous to send him back. I want to, but I'm not sure."

During a news conference late last week, Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein did say the county is adding seven new contact tracers this week to keep up, which by their count would make 69.