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Contact tracers critical to Kentucky's progress in slowing spread of COVID-19

FOCUS investigative reporter Paula Vasan obtained an internal report that outlines the questions contact tracers are tasked with asking to help contain the virus.


Health officials say contact tracers are critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

“It looked like just a normal day on Bardstown Road," said Mark Carter, executive advisor at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

It’s pictures like crowded streets along Bardstown Road that keep Carter up at night.  

“That will overwhelm any attempt to do effective contact tracing," he said.

Carter is spearheading contact tracing efforts at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

“We are continuing to hire every day," he said. 

Right now, he said there are about 800 disease investigators and contact tracers at local health departments around the state. 

“Because of the nature of this folks have to work nights and weekends," said Carter.

They’re paid about $45,000 a year. 

“It’s a demanding job,” he said. 

Kris Dyer, a contact tracer in Lexington, calls the job rewarding. 

“You’re selling people on the idea of staying put in your house and your home for at least 14 days," said Dyer. He said he makes between 10 to 15 calls a day. 

WHAS11 obtained a 33-page document outlining what people like Dyer are tasked with asking those who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Questions focus on topics like “symptoms,” “temperature,” and “pre-existing medical conditions.” 

“And then we get into sort of the nuts and bolts of the nature of the infection," said Dyer. 

Carter calls the job critical to slowing a highly contagious disease. But he worries when the roughly $76 million the state has received from federal coronavirus funding will run out. 

“If the funding is not renewed it’ll be difficult if not impossible to maintain that level of staff and to deal with the disease," said Carter.

Carter said the state’s health department will need more funding next year. How much? It depends on whether COVID-19 cases continue to rise. For now, he said he’s working with the Governor’s Office to request federal funding continue into next year. 

Apply to become a contact tracer here

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