“Contact Tracing” seems to be the new buzzword regarding what we need to do to re-open the country. It is not. Only one thing will keep us safe: a vaccine. But what is contact tracing? From Wikipedia:
In public health, contact tracing is the process of identification of persons who may have come into contact with an infected person (“contacts”) and subsequent collection of further information about these contacts. By tracing the contacts of infected individuals, testing them for infection, treating the infected and tracing their contacts in turn, public health aims to reduce infections in the population. (emphasis in original)
Notice the most important words in this definition in the final line: “aims to reduce infections in the population”. It does NOT say stop.
So how would contact tracing work? First, identify and test someone who has the disease. Second, track who they have come in contact with. Third, find their contacts, test them, and quarantine them until they are clear of the incubation period. So why won’t this work? The answer is step one, find the infected person. As long as there are people infected with the disease, especially those who are asymptomatic or showing minor symptoms, the disease will spread.
Until I am vaccinated I won’t change what I’m doing now regardless of whether or not contract tracing is implemented. It doesn’t help me to know that the person I sat next to in a restaurant was asymptomatic, but infected. I’ll have been exposed. It won’t help you to know that the person prior to you to have touched the pin pad at the supermarket was sick. You’ll have been exposed. Yes, contact tracing will slow the spread of COVID-19 by quarantining people who have been exposed. But it won’t protect you or me from exposure. It will only stop us from exposing others should we be identified as a contact.
So what will help? Exactly what we are doing now. Stay at home. Wash your hands and do it correctly. Social distance when you go out. Wear a mask. And if you’ve been exposed? Quarantine until you know you are not infected and get treatment if you are.
Finally, contact tracing will only help if it is done on a coordinated, nationwide scale. It won’t help if it’s only done in my city with a population of 28,000. People from neighboring communities shop here and go home. It won’t work at a state level. People come from neighboring states to work then return home. And it won’t help if it’s not nationwide if the friend exposed with me at a restaurant flies across the country to visit her daughter.