It Can’t Happen Here

In Chicago at least contact-tracing to limit the spread of COVID-19 is a flop, as this article by Brett Chase in the Chicago Sun-Times points out:

Contact tracing begins with trying to locate and interview anyone who recently tested positive. Its success depends on those people opening up about others they recently have been in close contact with. And, beyond that: convincing people who possibly were exposed to the virus to quarantine themselves to keep from spreading it, even when they haven’t experienced any symptoms.

Touted early in the pandemic as a critical tool to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by interviewing people who might have been exposed, the effort in Chicago is falling far short of expectations.

There’s the city’s low rate of success even reaching COVID-positive people.

Beyond that, those who do get interviewed aren’t giving up the names of their friends and family, health officials say. City officials hoped they would get names from the COVID-positive Chicagoans contact tracers reach of five to 10 people each who potentially had been exposed. But city officials say that so far they are getting little more than one contact, on average, for each COVID-positive person interviewed.

The reasons given for why it’s a flop include:

  • There aren’t enough people doing the tracing
  • The city’s program can’t respond to changes in the number of cases fast enough
  • Even when contacts are identified they don’t know how to reach them
  • People don’t answer their phones or doorbells
  • Even when they reach them people won’t talk

Based on experience I would add that any contact-tracing program will inevitably become a method of channeling money to political activists. Maybe it’s different elsewhere but that’s the way it is in Chicago.

The United States is different from Germany or Japan. People don’t trust the government. That isn’t new—with the exception of a brief honeymoon following World War II, the most successful government program in U. S. history, Americans have never trusted the government. Trust is hard to build and easy to lose.

1 comment… add one
  • Drew Link

    The distrust is well earned.

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