State and local officials speak about virus contact tracing following in-person voting

NOW: State and local officials speak about virus contact tracing following in-person voting

MILWAUKEE, WI (CBS 58) – Both state and county officials are saying it may be too early to tell if there is a correlation between testing positive for coronavirus and those who voted in person in last Tuesday’s election.

While experts say it takes about five days for the first symptoms to appear after being exposed, state officials say such reports could be seen next week.

“The cases we’re seeing right now really reflect the people that were infected a week or two ago,” says Dr. Ryan Westergaard, infectious disease specialist. “So the trend that we see now is going to depend on how we maintain our physical distancing.”

Last week we saw how people exercised their right to vote, waiting for hours in line – some opted to wear a mask and gloves.

“Just for the next two weeks if numbers continue to flatten or if we’ll see a spike,” says Jeanette Kowalik commissioner of health for the City of Milwaukee. “We’re hoping for the best, but we also want to acknowledge that the election activity could set us back on our path.”

Once a positive case is confirmed from someone who was at a voting location, officials say they can then begin tracking if they came in contact with other voters.

“The method for detecting all cases is the same,” says Dr. Westergaard. “Every time there is a symptomatic case that has a test and is diagnosed and confirmed to have COVID-19, they’re contacted by local public health to interview about their exposure history. It means exposure to other people or settings.”

“What you can imagine can be extremely time consuming and can take a long time because you have to find all these people,” says Kowalik. “You’re like a disease detective.”

The Department of Human Services has added more than 120 contact trackers to help in interviewing people with positive cases.

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