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Contact tracing, one method used to prevent spread of COVID-19

'We're headed in the wrong direction folks and this is only because of community spread,' Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said.

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — After four straight days of hospitalization decreases in Erie County, came three straight days of an increase, according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

He said Wednesday in a daily news briefing, "We're headed in the wrong direction folks and this is only because of community spread."

Poloncarz added, "I don't know if these are essential workers on the frontlines. I don't know if these are individuals who are hanging out at the parks, but it's quite apparent that people are not following the guidelines because more people are getting sick." 

Local medical experts stress that individuals can do their part to help control the spread, by taking steps like wearing masks and social distancing. 

On a larger scale, communities are also using a method called contact tracing.

Poloncarz said, "We have contact tracers. They call all people who test positive from our PCR test and they are identifying their close contacts and if they're symptomatic of course those individuals are getting tested as well." 

Poloncarz said Erie County will be expanding contact tracing as well, based on new guidelines.

He explained, "One of the requirements from the state is to have at least 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 individuals in your population. We're not at a point like that. We are going to be ramping up contact tracing, but we've been able to contact trace for all of the individuals who've tested positive on the PCR test."

Dr. John Sellick, a Hospital Epidemiologist for Kaleida Health, told 2 on Your Side, "Contact tracing is really one of the most important things that we can do."

He added, "Getting people tested and then doing contact tracing with the ones who are positive will go a long way to break some of this transmission."

Dr. Thomas Russo, the chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, said, "The reason that it's important to do contact tracing and to quarantine individuals that have been exposed is what we've learned about this virus is that individuals can be an infectious source and infect other individuals up to six days prior to developing symptoms." 

That means even if you feel fine, you could risk spreading the virus to people you come into contact with and vice versa.

"Even though we're getting tired of this, we need to see this through. We need to bring it home at this point. This is not a time to become lackadaisical. This is not a time to give up. It is not a time to say the worst of its over, I can go out now," Dr. Russo said.

He added, "This virus is not gonna go quietly in the night and we have to all pull together to get these cases down and then continue that so that we can start to get back to some of our more normal activities that we quite enjoy doing." 

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