More Prepared Now: Contact Tracing Capacity Finally Meets Demand in Roanoke Region

Aug 30, 2020

Roanoke-area health officials say they finally have enough contact tracers on staff to meet the demand.

Doctor Molly O’Dell recently told reporters that there are some 20 new employees devoted to disease investigation in the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District.  "We have not had the capacity we needed up until now.  We now have the capacity we needed six weeks ago, we hope," O'Dell said.  "We feel much more prepared now than we did before."

Credit CDC

In the New River Valley, where cases are rising with the return of college students, more contact tracers are still being brought on board. Doctor Noelle Bissell with the New River Health District said even with the increased demand, contact tracing is still beginning within about 24 hours of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

She also said neighboring health districts, where cases are not running as high, are loaning contact tracers.  Bissell said the New River District did the same earlier in the summer when its cases were low and the Roanoke-Alleghany and Mount Rogers districts experienced surges in cases.  "The good thing about case investigation and contact tracing is that it can be done over the phone," Bissell said.  "You're calling people, you're interviewing them, you're getting a list of their contacts, you're calling their contacts. So a lot of it can be done remotely."

Bissell said the state is bringing on regional disease investigators to build surge capacity throughout southwest Virginia.