Local consulting firm questions contact tracing in Houston

HOUSTON – As the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb across the area and officials ramp up testing and contact tracing efforts, a Houston-based consulting firm is asking questions about the information regarding those cases.

“If the city knows that 50 people who went to a particular place ended up with coronavirus, why wouldn’t they want to put out that information to protect everybody else,” said Wayne Dolcefino of Dolcefino Consulting.

Dolcefino said he recently reached out to the city and county to get specifics about COVID-19 cases that he believes the public has the right no know about.

“We don’t want people’s names. We told them we don’t want any medical information... Tell me where you found evidence of community spread,” he said.

But some city leaders said that type of information can’t be released as a matter of health privacy laws and more.

“On one hand, it’s part of maintaining public trust and on the other hand it’s staying within the boundaries of the federal privacy law,” said Dr. David Persse of the Houston Health Authority.

Persse added when it comes to COVID-19 in the Houston area city workers are going door-to-door in hotspots to educate people on the proper way to stop the spread of coronavirus and encourage residents to go get tested.

”When we last looked at it, what the group told me was that they weren’t really finding any one particular place, nor the type of place. It wasn’t like restaurants and it wasn’t like family gatherings,” said Dr. Persse.

Still, Dolcefino believes more could be done that could prove helpful.

“Every day they’re telling us what to do or not do. But they won’t give us information, safety information that could protect people,” he said.

However, one city officials said everyone should take precautions everywhere.

”Right now, since there’s so much virus in the community, you really shouldn’t consider anywhere to be safe. Protect yourself in all neighborhoods and all, whatever business you may go into,” said Persse.

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