Contact tracer applicant says 'I did this to help New York State' |


Contact tracer applicant says 'I did this to help New York State'

Berkeley Brean
Updated: May 07, 2020 12:47 PM
Created: May 06, 2020 05:40 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — One of the ways the Rochester Finger Lakes region is going to be able to start reopening in mid-May is by having what the governor calls an "army of contact tracers." Those are people who will reach out to you if you come into close contact with someone who tests positive. 

News10NBC tracked down one woman who wants the job. 

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "Why is it that you want this job as a tracer?"

Bobbi Koval, applied to be contact tracer: "Whenever there is a crisis now that I'm retired I attempt to do something where I can make a difference."

You can apply to become a contact tracer online. Volunteer opportunities available through the New York State Department of Health can be found here.

Koval retired as a counselor at Monroe 1 BOCES. She says it's in her nature to want to help, so she applied to be a contact tracer. 

Getting enough tracers is one of the goals to reopen. 

According to the governor's office, the Rochester Finger Lakes region needs 361 tracers. On a Zoom conference Wednesday, the Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said there are at least 61 tracers in Monroe County but that number is closer to 100 when you include the other eight counties in the region. 

"We've been engaging with my colleagues and nursing students and public health students from all across our community, from all the institutions — Brockport, Nazareth, St. John Fisher, U of R, RIT — all of them," Dr. Mendoza said. 

News10NBC surveyed the other eight counties in the area. Here are the number of tracers they shared with us: 

  • Livingston: 19
  • Yates: Seven (Two additional staff members can be trained and there are 2 volunteers)
  • Ontario: 13 staff plus 18 volunteers
  • Wayne: Four nurses who are doing contact tracing
  • Genesee & Orleans Counties: 23 staff trained as contact tracers, and seven others have been identified
  • Wyoming: Five people, another one that could be used if needed and several people who would need minimal training.

The Genesee and Orleans County Health Department added in its email, "We are currently able to handle the caseload."

That brings the region's current tracer total to 156.

We did not receive information from Seneca County or Wyoming County. 

When Governor Cuomo rolled this out last week his graphic showed the goal of reaching people who had close contact with someone positive, then you test them. 

"You then isolate those people so you don't increase the rate of infection," Gov. Cuomo said. 

Brean: "What is that going to feel like to try to contribute to the solution?"

Koval: "Oh, I"m going to feel so much better about my day-to-day existence. Having been locked down for so long you start to lose your sense of self-value, self-worth. Now there's going to be something I can say — I did this to help New York State."

The county has four training sessions starting Saturday. 

The state pause order ends May 15. The region has had nine days to achieve this goal. 

One quick but important note: The tracers won't be looking for people you passed at Wegmans or on the sidewalk. They're looking for people who spent an extended period of time within six feet of you. 

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