Michigan using contact tracing to slow spreading coronavirus

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LANSING, MI (WILX) - Michigan is slowly starting to open up and as the holiday weekend begins, more people want to get back to normal.

Michigan is using contact tracing to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Health officials said the best way to slow the spread of coronavirus is through contact tracing.

That means people need to answer their phone when it rings, even if they don't recognize the number.

"We believe it is a pretty important tool to facilitate the reopening of the economy," said Jonathan Warsh, Chief of Staff for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Contact tracing is the one thing needed to move to different phases of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's "MI Safe Start Plan."

Warsh said that's to help prevent a second wave of COVID-19.

"If we can very quickly isolate those people, quarantine all their contacts, we prevent the spread of the virus," he said.

Contact tracing starts at the local health department, who will call the infected person. The health department gets contact information of those who had close contact with that person.

Close contact generally means being within 6-feet for at least 15 minutes.

"The risk you have when you pass somebody in the produce aisle if they are wearing a mask, and you're wearing a mask is very very low," said Warsh.

Warsh said those people are usually asked to quarantine for 14 days and are monitored for symptoms every day.

Contact tracing isn't a new concept, it is just on a larger scale.

Health departments use it for other diseases like measles, there are just more cases of COVID-19.

"This is the way we do our business. This is the way we've been doing control of infectious disease outbreaks," said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.

Vail said the department has been tracking people for coronavirus well before Michigan's first case.

"We're always ready for one. We always have the staff, we always have staff who are looking at trends and things like that. We're ready for one," she said.

The state had to re-bid a contract for a service that would allow the state to send text messages instead of phone calls.

That's because Governor Whitmer canceled the first contract after learning it wasn't awarded properly.

The new service has now been in place for a couple of weeks.

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