Illness detectives are trying desperately to beat the clock and discover those who have actually been exposed to the infection. Can they move quick enough to stop the pandemic?
As a public-health director in Savannah, Georgia, Cristina Pasa Gibson spent her time in an office filled with calorie counters and yoga mats and the fragrance of jasmine tea. She began working on contact tracing, a no-holds-barred effort to stop the pandemic, and her workplace and her life were turned upside down. “I felt like I was in a Vegas gambling establishment,” she says. “I didn’t understand what time it was, what day it was, who I was.”
She and her colleagues in Savannah and her equivalents in other cities across the country have been working frantically to trace the course of the infection and to find those who might have been exposed to the infection. They speak with patients, requesting names of people they have hung around with, and ferret out those people and to tell them to remain isolated so they do not infect others.
The pressure on private investigators and contact tracers has been extreme. “I basically resided in my workplace,” states Gibson, explaining the early days. “It was Groundhog Day over and over.”
Today their role is a lot more essential. The US now has the highest variety of cases and deaths on the planet.