Contact tracers run low as patient numbers increase

Posted at 9:55 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 00:02:07-04

City and county leaders reported 27 new COVID-19 cases in Nueces County, which is now the largest jump in one day. Twenty-one of those cases are Nueces county residents.

Those new cases come from employees who work local beef processing plant STX Beef.

The City-County Health Department is now preparing to perform contact tracing on the employees who tested positive for the virus, which means they’ll track down every person these patients have come in contact with recently.

"The purpose is to ensure everyone gets instructions on how to mitigate and lessen infections to healthy people,” said Public Health Director Annette Rodriguez.

However, as the number of confirmed cases has gone up, the number of contact tracers has gone down. Rodriguez said the health department used to have 20 contact tracers, and now, it only has five.

"With the last two days, the numbers are so big, that it's hard to keep up with those large numbers with so few people,” Rodriguez said.

Nueces Co. Judge Barbara Canales is focusing her efforts on getting them more help.

“Right now, what I'm concentrating on is making sure our community has enough contact tracers, because with the volume that we've seen over the past few days, we want to make sure that's being addressed,” she said.

Canales said she got word Tuesday that the state of Texas is forming a team of trained contact tracers, and she is asking for its help in the Coastal Bend as soon as possible.

Rodriguez says they have not begun contact tracing for STX Beef employees.

The National Guard began testing the plant’s employees over the weekend, and as of Tuesday they’ve tested more than 600 people working there.

STX Beef said once everyone’s test results are in, staff will provide county health officials a full report of the test results. Anyone who tests positive for the virus is being told to quarantine for 10-14 days. Those employees won’t be allowed back to work until they’re cleared.

If you live with an STX Beef employee or have come in contact with one, you can get tested for the novel coronavirus for free. For more information, call 361-414-6700.