Harris County to hire hundreds of ‘contact tracers’ to track coronavirus cases

Contact tracing of COVID-19 cases in Harris County
Contact tracing of COVID-19 cases in Harris County

HOUSTON – Identifying and isolating those who have COVID-19 is widely accepted by local leaders, and health officials as a key to not only “flattening the curve,” but a necessary ingredient in the successful relaunch of the economy.

To that end, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Tuesday that the county intends to hire about 300 people whose principal job will be to identify those who have had COVID-19, assess who they have had contact with, test, and quarantine them.

The qualifications for the job and the pay scale have not yet been publicly made available, nor has the technology that will be employed to help with the project.

“Our assessment is that for every person who tests positive, they’ve had around 20 contacts. This is about identifying the first person who is sick and then others who may be positive,” Hidalgo said in a press conference Tuesday.

Google and Apple have partnered to develop an opt-in phone app to anonymously monitor, via location targeting, who is coming into contact with whom.

It is unclear whether the technology will play a role in Harris County’s efforts, and what the true privacy implications are for such a tracing method.

“As part of the effort, Harris County will recruit around 300 contact tracers with the ability to expand as needed. These are folks who are going to reach out to people who have come into contact with someone infected, ensure they get tested and isolate for at least two weeks so that they’re not spreading the virus,” Hidalgo said.

Watch Hidalgo’s full press conference below:

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Posted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Tuesday, April 28, 2020