contact tracing

Matt Ryan New York Now


The chairs of the state legislative health committees are proposing a bill that would help protect the privacy of New Yorkers who give personal information to coronavirus contact tracers.

They say without the protections, the contact tracing system -- aimed at curbing the virus and avoiding future shutdowns -- won’t work. 

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

New York state’s efforts to contain the novel coronavirus and reopen the economy rely heavily on contact tracers. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said late last month that the state would need “an army” of people to find anyone who was close to a patient with a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus.

In Monroe County, more than 600 people have signed up to volunteer as contact tracers, said the man leading their training, public health department emergency preparedness specialist Aaron Cignarale.

John Owens Jr. has been doing contact tracing for 20 years. Usually, his work focuses on sexually transmitted infections -- each year, there are thousands of cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia, hundreds of syphilis cases and dozens of HIV diagnoses in Monroe County.

In the last few months, however, his focus -- and his job description -- have changed. Owens, 46, is now the county’s COVID-19 contact tracing lead.