Following One Contact Tracer on the Trail of the Virus

The New York Times asked Radhika Kumar, a contact tracer for California Connected, an ambitious effort by the state to track people who have been infected with or exposed to the coronavirus, to keep a log of her interactions over the course of a day’s work.

“Some days are good, and then you have some challenging days!!” she wrote in an email. “Today was a good day despite not being able to get hold of everyone. Tomorrow will bring another set of adventures.”

Ms. Kumar recorded the number of times she attempted to contact each person, whether they were willing to provide her with a list of contacts who may have been exposed, and a summary of her conversations. The people in the cases below were all first contacted on July 28, though in some cases, follow-up conversations with a case extended to the next day.

Two attempted calls.

Case and partner were positive. Case provided partner’s information, but is not sure how they were infected other than maybe from the gym or grocery store. Stated that he went to the gym for the 2 weeks when they opened, did take precautions to sanitize hands and use mask.

Two attempted calls.

Telephone call at 11 a.m. Unable to complete interview since case had a “work call” to attend to. Telephone call on 7/29 at 10 a.m. to conduct interview. Case stated that roommate has tested positive, but not sure about exposure. Denied any other contacts outside of household. Case thinks exposure may be from going to the beach, and denied any other contact/exposure. Case provided roommate information to be contacted by Contact Tracer.

One attempted call.

Call answered by spouse. Stated case, and son, work as independent painters. Unsure of how may have been exposed or infected. Spouse stated usually they work at homes that are not occupied. Discussed various ways of contact from work areas to grocery stores. Grocery store is a possibility. Able to add household contacts who have tested negative.

One attempted call.

Most likely exposed at work. Works as an electrician and was told of exposure from work. Case began to self-quarantine until started to feel symptoms. Currently self-isolating at home. Household contacts were added. Reemphasized the importance of notifying close contacts to self-quarantine to stop infection. Case requested additional information via email.

Seven attempted calls.

Left voice message at 9:16 a.m., and again at 2:05 p.m. Able to contact patient at 3:25 p.m. and call dropped mid-interview. Case was anxious about getting “excuse” for work. Reassured that Health Officer Order may be of assistance. Called back and voice message again. 7/29 Checked work voice mail and have a message from case. Telephone call on 7/29 at 10:44 a.m. and left message. Attempted to connect with case and left message at 11:56 a.m. Attempted to contact case at 2:07 p.m. and left voice message. Attempted to contact case at 4:02 p.m. and left message.

Five attempted calls.

Left voice message at 9:19 a.m. and again at 2:07 p.m.; telephone call on 7/29 at 10:48 a.m. and left voice message. Attempted to contact case at 2:21 p.m. and left voice message. Attempted to contact case at 3:50 p.m. and left voice message.

Four attempted calls.

Left voice message at 10:54 a.m., and again at 2:13 p.m. Telephone call on 7/29 and left voice message. Attempted to contact case at 2:25 p.m. and left voice message. Telephone call to case at 3:52 p.m. and left voice message.

Two attempted calls.

Left voice message at 11:08 a.m. Attempted to contact case and able to conduct interview after lunch. Case is an elderly lady who lives alone. Tested positive prior to a medical procedure. Assured me that her family is doing the “right thing” to stop the spread by testing and “cleaning everything.” Case was very thankful for the phone call, and listened attentively, but was adamant about NOT providing contact information.

Two attempted calls.

Called case on 7/28 and left message at 11:17 a.m. Attempted to call patient at 2:10 p.m. Voice mail for case is in Spanish, more likely that case is fluent in Spanish. Indicated that we are able to provide translation, if needed, on second voice message at 2:10 p.m. Asked for assistance from Supervisor to reassign case to Spanish-speaking colleague.

One attempted call.

Case is middled aged, lives with family. Case works as an independent construction worker. Last day of work was 7/17. One other family member and case is positive in household of 6. Case is more comfortable in Spanish, so assistance from other positive case was appreciated. Stated that family member who tested positive may have been exposed at work in warehouse. Four members of household are negative and self-quarantined separately. Negative members have not tested, nor have symptoms.

One attempted call.

Family member of case #11. May have been exposed at workplace. Able to add other household members who have not tested nor have symptoms. Was not comfortable to provide individual cell number, and preferred to have case #11 cell number since they live in same household. Case was gracious enough to help with some contact information, and able to gain essential information to and connect to positive cases.

Case notes have been condensed and edited.