Oregon Makes Contact Tracing Data Public, Unlike Most States

Contact tracing – calling those who have tested positive for the coronavirus to ask who they’ve been around is among the best ways to contain an outbreak, according to public health experts. It can provide critical data about where transmissions are occurring in a community, driving policy and guiding assessments about where it’s safe to go. 

An NPR report focused on a surveying of the health departments in every state and territory over the course of three months. The latest, done in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, asked states about contact tracing data: what they were gathering and what they’re making public.  

According to the NPR report, most states are documenting how many contacts are reached, how quickly and where people were exposed. However, just 14 states publish the data, and only nine make contact tracing staff numbers publicly available.  

The few states analyzing and sharing this data represent “a good start,” said Crystal Watson, senior scholar at the Center for Health Security, who collaborated with NPR on the survey. What’s needed, Watson said, is for states to share contact tracing data “more widely and more consistently,” despite the fact that a lack of resources makes it difficult to do. 

By Cody Mann