BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – If you test positive for the coronavirus, you may not hear from a contact tracer right away. Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says their contact tracing investigations are delayed about 48 hours due to the recent surge in cases.
“Just because you have not been contacted by a contact tracer doesn’t mean that you’re safe,” Burstein said.
A contact tracer’s role is to reach out to those who have tested positive for the virus, and find out who their close contacts are. Those close contacts are put into quarantine, due to the possibility that they were exposed to the virus.
The Erie County Department of Health has trained 50 tracers internally, according to a spokesperson. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Thursday the county has recently hired 10 tracers, and is moving county employees who have training into those roles as well.
Daniel Stapleton, the Niagara County Public Health Director, said they trained 50 tracers in the spring.
“We continue to train staff in the county health department to meet the need from increasing numbers,” Stapleton said.
Allegany County public health officials say they have trained six additional contact tracers since October. Previously, all 28 employees on the health department’s staff had been trained.
Health officials from all three counties noted they also utilize contact tracers through the New York State Department of Health. Jeffrey Hammond, a NYSDOH spokesperson, said they’ve deployed 500 tracers to the five county Western New York region, which also includes Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties.
“(The New York State Department of Health) will continue to closely monitor each region and provide additional contact tracers as needed,” Hammond said.
Stapleton also said the state department of health told his office they are hiring hundreds more contact tracers across the state.
According to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, 747 contact tracers in total are required to be in Western New York. That number is updated on a weekly basis.
The number of coronavirus cases in the region continues to increase. On Wednesday, 652 Western New York residents tested positive for the virus, according to state data. That set a daily record. The rate of positive cases that day was 5.5%.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.