The Ins and Outs of Contact Tracing

There’s a disturbing article in the San Antonio paper this morning about how people are resisting contact tracing.

When they do talk to people, the people can’t narrow down where they might have picked it up, because they went lots of places! [I miss the head-smack emoji]

The auto dealers got all hot under the collar about this, like it was some blot on them that people might have picked up the virus there. But the dealers aren’t insisting on people wearing masks either. [another head-smack]

For a business to take offense at and retard a public health effort to locate the source of this virus that’s spreading like wildfire, at the same time that they’re not taking aggressive steps to protect customers and staff-- :scream:

Holy crap. What is wrong with people? Never mind.

Let’s be very clear - this is not just Texas. This week end per the NYT re NYC efforts -

This surprises not at all.

For once, I agree with DSeid on a COVID-related topic :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: FWIW, I agree with you on a lot of other topics.

Joking aside, DSeid is correct that contact tracing over the phone, person-to-person is going to be a challenge. People are naturally skeptical or paranoid about strangers calling them up out of the blue, asking them where they’ve been, who their friends are, and what kinds of activities they’ve been doing together. In this day and age of frauds and scams over the phone, people are inevitably cautious about giving out that kind of information.

And for whatever reason, a lot of health agencies do a piss poor job of telling people about their work. They just expect people to cooperate and don’t make any effort whatsoever to let people know that their data collectors are out there collecting data. It’s no wonder that people are not cooperative.

Still, it’s a tool, and it has to be used. But it will probably have to be used in conjunction with other data gathering tools (phone apps, etc), and the heavy lifting will involve health agencies informing the public (across a range of platforms) & raising awareness that such work is currently underway and ongoing, and they will also need to explain why it’s important for people to cooperate and provide assurances on how data will be used and what kinds of privacy protections exist.

To some extent, I blame robo-callers. People are very well trained at this point to not answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize.

And I also have a blood center person who calls me to try and get me in to donate platelets where the phone ID comes up as “Lawson, MO” (which is a nearby (but not that nearby) town). After they called often enough I finally got curious enough to pick up to see who was that persistent.

I think that even if people were convinced that the folks calling them were legitimate contact tracers, that would not increase the level of response. It might even decrease it.

I’ve seen any number of discussions about contact tracing on Facebook, and inevitably there’s lots of people saying things like “It’s just another way for Big Brother to keep track of you” and “It’s nobody’s damn business where I go” and stuff like that. It’s gonna be the mask thing all over again–I won’t do it and you can’t make me!

This is a good point, and I think you’re correct. If you look at places where the virus response has been effective, it’s not strictly about what specific policies have been proposed but also just as much about the degree to which people comply and trust their government. We’ve had a good 40-years or more of ‘big gubmint’ bashing, and now that we’re in the midst of a pandemic, we’re seeing that this has become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Contact tracing will have limitations - there’s little doubt about that, and it’s a really sad and disturbing commentary about the state of our society as a whole. Even so, we have to try what we can. To the degree that it can be done, perhaps government agencies (at the local and state level if nowhere else) can try working with data gathering companies (including but not limited to big tech) to streamline a process of data collection and reporting. We’ll have to acknowledge limitations, which health agencies kinda do already in the case of self-reporting surveys.

I went to the Alamo Toyota two or three weeks ago to get a new key fob and not a single employee in the service area was wearing a mask. There were about ten of them in a small space sitting at their desks. They directed me out to the waiting area and no one was wearing a mask except for a poor older lady and myself. I was livid. They just sheepishly smiled.

Good grief. That’s aggravating. But, sadly, not surprising. I’m overdue for my car’s regular service, but I didn’t want to go sit at the dealer for an hour and a half. I guess I could bring a folding lawn chair and sit outside…

Welcome to another San Antonian! JohnT is also from SA-- not sure who else is off hand. :slightly_smiling_face:

I’m looking forward to a lovely walk as my brakes are repaired and I get a new set of tires.

Thanks! SA was doing okay with contact tracing but they can’t keep up anymore (besides people refusing to participate as has already been mentioned).

No surprises there. Mask compliance is usually low originally. It needs some hard policing over the initial week & days and weeks to increase. This means citing people without one, closing down business and location where mask-wearing is not enforced. The message has to be sent, we are serious.
Good thing is that mask wearing usually goes up afer this.
Bad news, in an era of mass protests against the police, how exactly are you going to do the necessary hard policing.

You have spent hundreds of billions developing the planets most extensive snooping network aka NSA. Why don’t you use that.

Yep. My iPhone is set up to automatically send calls from non-contacts straight to voicemail. Those voicemails are usually deleted without being read (I use voice to text).

The County I work for has hired a person for public health to be a data analyst. I can only guess that this guy is gonna concentrate on contact tracing. I work in GIS and suspect we are going to get request for LOTS of data/applications.

We may have no choice, but it also begs the question: why is a society that is so paranoid about contact tracing to protect our own effing health so willing to permit really, really invasive snooping for reasons that are rarely ever made clear or justified to the public?

I’m not really looking for an answer, but it’s beyond maddening how so many are screaming “My rights! My rights! My freedom!” when it comes to their health. A pandemic like this will have an inevitable toll, but the impact would be far less if we were all a little less individualistic and a lot more cooperative.

I would certainly answer the questions. But look who is in charge. They went so far to say they like having all the information of the TicToc group that punked him in Tulsa. Of course contact tracing is probably protected by HIPA, for now.

I work in GIS and and helping as much as I can, but only one person in our department has any access to this public health data, and I don’t know what kinds of things she had to sign off on. It makes it difficult to help her with these apps, since I can’t even see the data.

Unless the call’s clearly coming from my doctor or my county health department, what I expect I’d do is to ask them what office they’re calling from, tell them I’ll call back, hang up, and go look up the correct number for that department elsewhere and call that one.

But I have to answer unfamiliar numbers; sometimes it’s a would-be customer or new market member. I don’t answer them if they’re only missed calls with no message, though. If you get the voicemail, leave a message.

I do not know how effective manual contact tracing will be in the long run, TBH. The aforementioned paranoia about big data is well-earned, and as stated most of us are reflexively ignoring or disregarding calls from unknown sources, plus the manpower needed, costs, etc.

I think the best answer is going to be technology since most of us have smartphones and there are now apps that will allow for more and more accurate tracing. However, those can still be disabled by those not willing to participate in the program, so will not be totally effective (unless the Government mandates the apps are ‘on’ all the time and forces Android and Apple to make them non-user controlled). Still, technology may be a better/additional way to gather this data.

That couldn’t be enforced a few weeks ago because our lovely governor took away the mayor’s right to enforce face masks. He just recently backpedaled on that because cases are skyrocketing. In fact, he just paused the next phase of TX reopening because the state’s healthcare system is stressed. Amazing. All he had to do is allow cities to enforce masks. But nooooo!

I give that about 80% of the blame

I dunno. Yes, there will be some of that, of course. But if callers believe it’s a real call from the public health department and they have had real exposure to a real case, I think a lot of them would want to cooperate. The problem is that that “if” isn’t going to be satisfied, especially if it’s a phone call from an unknown number.