Issues with contact tracing arise as new cases of COVID-19 surge in El Paso

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — With more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases slamming El Paso on Thursday, local health leaders said contact tracing is becoming “impossible.”

On Thursday afternoon, Mayor Dee Margo said the City has purchased 5 buildings with CARES Act funds in order to conduct more contact tracing.

“When you have 50, 100, maybe 150 cases a day, contact tracing is routine and you can do it. You can look at the dashboard and see we were hitting between 80-90% of our results within 24 hours,” Dr. Ogechika Alozie, Chief Medical Officer with Del Sol Medical Center said.

Contact tracing data has fluctuated through the waves of COVID-19 in El Paso County. According to epstrong.org, right now 38% of contacts are being notified within 48 hours. That’s down from 88% on October 1st.

“Now that we’re having 500, 800, now 1,000 cases a day, it’s not possible to do contact tracing anymore. So whether we hire more people or not, it’s physically impossible to contact trace and so the community is going to have to take actions to get us back to a phase where we can actually do that contact tracing properly,” Dr. Alozie said.

Dr. Alozie also said that local hospitals continue to feel overwhelmed and El Pasoans should be more aware of that.

“Even though it may seem quiet and peaceful, people are going around their day to day business out in the community, the hospitals are under pressure. We’re under stress, and we need the community to take a step back to allow us time to breathe and manage the patients that are in the hospital. Also hopefully not have more patients come into the hospital,” Dr. Alozie shared.

With no slow down near in sight, medical professionals are hoping the community will start doing their part.

“The more cases that they hear, the more deaths unfortunately they hear, the more things that are concerning, human nature usually kicks in and people start to change their behavior. We’re hoping that we’ll start to see a reduction in the increase of cases over the next 10-14 days, probably have a plateau of about 3 to 4 weeks and then return to whatever our new normal is 4 to 6 weeks after that. But it’s unfortunate because that puts us towards the end of the year,” Dr. Alozie explained.

The City said there are currently 270 contact tracers in El Paso. The community is continuously being encouraged to step up and help slow the spread of the virus.

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