Contact tracing woes

With the number of COVID-19 cases doubling in Escambia County since June 30, Dr. John Lanza, the soon-to-be retired director of the Department of Health office in Escambia County, is trying to hire more people to handle contact tracing.

In past public meetings, Lanza has bragged about the contact tracing, which helps DOH identify all the persons whom an infected person had been around and to get them to go get tested. Last week, we learned the department has had trouble keeping people to do the work.

At the county commission meeting on Thursday, July 16, Lanza said, “We’re hiring 37 OPS workers to come in and supplement my staff, to perform the contact tracing and the investigations, to work at the point of testing.”

Until recently, DOH Escambia had only hired the contact tracers for two weeks at a time. The new batch will have five-month contracts.

“In the meantime, we have had some contract staff come in on two-week contracts,” said Lanza. “So they come in for a few days, we have to train them, they work for a few days. And if their contract isn’t extended, or they just leave for whatever reason, they don’t want to do it anymore, then we have to find new people.

He admitted, “It’s been very difficult to find staffing to do the work.