How Contact Tracing Will Work In Kentucky

May 22, 2020

As officials scale up Kentucky's ability to trace contacts of those diagnosed with COVID-19, the state will be employing a three-part system to assess those affected, alert people who came into close proximity, and provide support for anyone asked to self-quarantine.

In this Tuesday, May 19, 2020, photo, Salt Lake County Health Department health investigator Mackenzie Bray points to a board showing a hypothetical case that serves as a training tool to teach new contact tracers how to track all the people they need to reach out to after a person tests positive for COVID-19.
Credit AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

By now, residents are probably familiar with the term "contact tracer," but the process will extend to three different roles.

Initially, those infected with the novel coronavirus will speak with what's called a disease investigator, whose job is to judge the severity of the illness in the patient.

"Then, it's handed off to a contact tracer," Mark Carter, the state's contact tracing czar, explained on a Friday call with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. "The contact tracer's job is to talk to the patient about who they may have come in contact with over a certain period of time leading up to their diagnosis, and essentially try to identify each of those contacts and then assess each one of them in terms of risk along a low, medium, high type of algorithm."

An online tracking system, which underwent a soft launch Friday but is not quite ready to go live, will be used to record information about anyone exposed, "conduct outreach, and monitor wellness."

Finally, a social support coordinator will assist with any daily needs, such as groceries, the person may require help with while isolating.

Contacts who are notified they've been exposed will not be told the name of the person who tested positive, and Carter says there isn't guidance yet on how establishments might notify or handle patrons at restaurants or shops who may have been exposed.  

Asked whether unempoyment benefits will extend to those asked to quarantine, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said discussions are underway and more information, and potentially a COVID-specific executive order, is expected in the coming weeks.

"If you do the responsible thing, we want to make sure ... we don't let out folks fall behind," she said.

Gov. Andy Beshear has repeatedly warned against allowing contact tracing to become politicized like the wearing of masks - saying it's residents patriotic duty to pick up the phone and answer the call.