Gov. Beshear introduces contact tracing to Kentucky’s superintendents

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Governor's Call with Superintendents graphic

  • The contact tracing program is an online tracking system that allows public health workers to record individual information of Kentuckians who have been exposed to COVID-19, conduct outreach and monitor wellness.
  • Andy Beshear, citing recent news of COVID-19 spikes in France, said Kentucky ought to expect regional and local outbreaks.

By Jacob Perkins
Jacob.perkins@education.ky.gov

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and Kentuckians begin the transition from healthy at home to healthy at work, accurate and efficient contact tracing will be key to limit the spread of the virus.

Contact tracing – which is funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act – is expanding to meet both the White House and governor’s benchmarks for safely reopening the economy. Each state and territory is using contact tracing as a tool to fight the spread of COVID-19.

In a May 21 call with Kentucky’s 172 superintendents, Gov. Andy Beshear and Mark Carter – who was recently appointed as executive adviser leading the contact tracing for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services – introduced the contact tracing program and spoke of the importance of contact tracing as a way to manage the transmission of the virus.

“The testing and tracing are the only two ways that we can ensure that we reduce the spread of COVID-19 until there is an ultimate vaccine out there,” said Beshear.

Beshear said that as the Commonwealth moves forward, there will be two challenges that must be addressed to successfully conquer COVID-19. The first is having enough citizens who are willing to be tested on an on-going basis.

“That’s to ensure that people aren’t bringing the virus into your schools or your places of work,” he said. “We now have the capacity and locations all across Kentucky to test 2 1/2 times the number of people that the White House thinks we need to for it to be safe.”

However, testing only provides information on where the disease is at a given time. The second challenge will be having full public support and cooperation in the contact tracing program so local health professionals can provide support and tools for those who may have come in contact with an infected individual.

“We are developing this system in a way that protects people’s privacy. We’re not out there tracking the movements of Americans,” said Beshear. “It’s a chance to just know who that person who has tested positive comes into contact with so that we can mitigate that spread and so that we can ensure that other communities, other areas, other schools, other school systems aren’t impacted if we have an outbreak moving forward.”

Beshear, citing recent news of COVID-19 spikes in France, said Kentucky ought to expect regional and local outbreaks. The contact tracing program allows Kentucky to “form a bubble” around these outbreaks and provide infected individuals with day-to-day services – including medical services and food – so they can focus on getting healthy.

The contact tracing program is an online tracking system that allows public health workers to record individual information of Kentuckians who have been exposed to COVID-19, conduct outreach and monitor wellness.

A disease investigator will call individuals who have COVID-19 to confirm lab results, verify their isolation needs and inquire about any potential contacts

Kentucky residents will be contacted by a contact tracer if they have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive. The contact tracer will provide information and assess their health daily throughout their exposure timeline.

To protect the patient’s confidentiality, individuals who are contacted by a contact tracer will not be told who reported them. They will be told what they need to do to care for themselves, reduce the risk for others and protect their communities from any other exposure.

“I’m an advocate for reopening our society and the economy and I know the governor is highly focused on that and we have to do it safely,” said Carter. “If we have a significant outbreak here in one of your communities, it’s just going to be a setback that may be much harder to recover from.”

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