When contact tracing works, families, friends and co-workers avoid infection

This story was reported by David Boraks of WFAE, Nate Morabito of WCNC-TV and Lauren Lindstrom of The Charlotte Observer as part of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative.

Nate Morabito, David Boraks
September 11, 2020

Despite more than 56,000 positive COVID-19 cases in the Charlotte region, area health departments have only successfully tracked the origins of widespread COVID-19 infections a handful of times since March. Those examples, while rare, are proof it is possible to pinpoint exactly where and how people are getting infected, but it takes the public’s cooperation.

“We wish that we could always identify where someone came into contact with the virus in every single case. That would be a public health dreamland,” Cabarrus Health Alliance Operating Officer Erin Shoe said. “We do wish we could do more of it.”

Cabarrus County is one of the few health departments locally and nationwide that has linked an outbreak back to family gatherings. Investigators concluded a small indoor Easter family get-together, outdoor wedding and outdoor birthday parties resulted in more than 18 infections over a two-week period in April.

“A birthday attendee may have also attended one or two of the other events that happened in that time period,” Shoe said. “The age range was from child to grandparent.”

Shoe said investigators quarantined 35 people in all and thanks to people’s willingness to share information, no one died.

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This story was produced by the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, a partnership of six media companies working together in an effort started by the Solutions Journalism Network and funded by The Knight Foundation.