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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Mecklenburg Can't Detail How Many People Contact Tracers Have Reached


Mecklenburg County has 25 full-time contact tracers and another 100 people working part-time to help prevent further spread of the coronavirus. But those workers have been hampered by people not providing phone numbers or addresses for their close contacts.

WFAE asked for detailed reports from the county health department on the status of tracing, the number of people who have been contacted and the success rate of each attempt. It also asked for reports about clusters — outside of nursing homes or child care facilities — where people have been infected.

The county says it doesn’t have that information.

“In terms of contact tracing, we have had questions from the media and others about what kind of data we can report on that,” Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said last week. “We have reporting limitations because of the state system that we’re being required to use. There’s some data that’s just not available from that system.” 

Since June, Mecklenburg has been using a computer program called CCTO that comes from North Carolina's health department. Officials say the system helps them keep track of thousands of contacts, but it doesn’t allow them to know in real-time how many of them have been reached.

Harris gave commissioners an overview last week of how the tracing is faring.

She said since early June, the county has had 5,200 individuals or household contacts given to them by people who were infected.

But, she said, “with 25%, we didn’t receive any contact information on those individuals.”

Though the county can’t provide detailed information, Harris estimates Mecklenburg ends up reaching about 85% of the people that it has phone numbers for.

Earlier this week, North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said the statewide success rate was much worse, with only one-third to one-half of all contacts reached.

Mecklenburg County says it doesn’t plan to attempt to go door to door to try and find more contacts. With there often being more than 300 new cases a day, the county doesn’t have enough people. 

Last week, a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was in Charlotte to help with contact tracing. CDC Director Robert Redfield is scheduled to hold a virtual news conference with Harris and County Manager Dena Diorio Monday.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.