CBS47 INVESTIGATES: Fresno County admits its COVID-19 contact tracing is only 20% successful

CBS47 Investigates

FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – Fresno County health officials say its COVID-19 contact tracing information is not reliable data.

On Friday, CBS47 revealed Fresno County’s contact tracing is supposed to show us where the coronavirus is being spread. After months of asking for that information, health officials tell us it is not good data.

“I would humbly submit that it’s not complete and that we just need to take it with a grain of salt,” Dr. Rais Vohra, interim health officer, said.

Where exposure to the virus occurred in Fresno County has been elusive. We looked at the sample size of the data: 19,000 responses are compiled, but there are 94,000 total cases.

Therefore, only one in every five cases Fresno County is able to compile data from. That amounts to a 20% success rate. We asked Tuesday if we should be satisfied with this number.

“No we shouldn’t be satisfied,” Dr. Vohra answered. “We should just try to apply the lessons we’ve learned and try to do a better job in the future.”

Dr. Vohra explained it’s difficult to track a virus that is new and so widespread.

“The global picture is everything was slow in the beginning, everything was inefficient, and we continue to learn lessons on how to do this better,” Dr. Vohra said.

Fresno County’s contact tracing team is comprised of 83 case investigators and 35 contact tracers. But the information they gather is hit and miss.

“The kinds of feedback and interactions that we’re getting, it’s just hard for us to come up with good, clean information to share with people,” Dr. Vohra said.

Dr. Vohra says we don’t need to be dependent on the data since the data isn’t where health officials were hoping it would be.

“People just need to know we may not be able to know who gave them the coronavirus because that’s the nature of the contact tracing that we have,” Dr. Vohra said.

This is how the data they have compiled lays things out:

  • 60% of transmissions take place in homes.
  • 10% coming from the workplace.
  • 12% coming from the community.

A senior epidemiologist says they are able to track outbreaks in the community and that there are specific teams that track that information. However, CBS47 is not able to see the details that make up this data.

“We’re always mindful of people’s privacy so we probably air on the side of not disclosing publicly unless it was a matter of public import that people really needed to know,” Dr. Vohra said.

CBS47 continues to ask questions of Fresno County Department of Public Health. One of those questions is funding.

At least $10 million of federal CARES Act funding went specifically to Fresno County’s contact tracing efforts.

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