Disease detectives are trying desperately to beat the clock and find those who have been exposed to the virus. Can they move fast 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 scent of jasmine tea. Then she started working on contact tracing, a no-holds-barred effort to stop the pandemic, and her office and her life were turned upside down. “I felt like I was in a Vegas casino,” she says. “I didn’t know what time it was, what day it was, who I was.”
She and her colleagues in Savannah and her counterparts in other cities across the country have been working frantically to trace the path of the infection and to find those who may have been exposed to the virus. They talk to patients, asking for names of individuals they have spent time with, and chase down those individuals and to tell them to remain isolated so they do not infect others.
The pressure on investigators and contact tracers has been intense. “I basically lived in my office,” says Gibson, describing the early days. “It was Groundhog Day over and over.”
Today their role is even more important. The US now has the highest number of cases and deaths in the world.
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