Tennessee Has Just 25 Percent of Recommended Contact Tracers

Tennessee has just 25 percent of the recommended amount of contact tracers, leaving the state 1,500 people short for the critical disease mitigation effort.

The National Association of County and City Health Officials is recommending just over 2,040 in Tennessee for its population. Nashville has just 75 contract tracers which needs to be tripled to become adequate.

“This contact tracing is an essential tool we have to use to get everyone back to work,” said Democrat Mike Stewart from the TN House of Representatives. “I understand sometimes we have political disputes, Republican, Democrat, but everybody recognizes contact tracing is going to be an essential part of moving forward, so I do not understand these low numbers the department has.”

The Tennessee Department of Health has defended their contract tracing efforts by pointing to the work local health departments are doing and by saying they are training more tracers.

Stewart and several other state leaders have suggested arming furloughed health care professionals with the training they need to become contract tracers in their community.

“We need to fight coronavirus like we fight wars where you put everything on the table,” Stewart continued. “And I just don’t think our Department of Health is doing that.”

Representative Scott Cepicky, a Republican from Maury County, wrote a letter to his colleagues in the state house, encouraging them to join him in an effort to stop a program that shares the information of sick Tennesseans with law enforcement.

He wrote in the letter, “an issue of great concern is the infringement of personal privacy and liberty that is happening right now in Tennessee.”

On the cybersecurity front, Apple and Google are both offering anonymous location services data to help with contact tracing in some instances, but neither company has a history of compliance with government wants and wishes.

“Location data is notoriously easy to de-anonymize and identify individuals, thus resulting in the violation of your privacy,” said Quentin Rhoads-Herrera, a cybersecurity expert working as the Director of Professional Services for the firm CRITICALSTART.

Reporter Alex Apple asked Rhoads-Herrera, “What is your advice for people that are worried about this?”

“I would advise everyone to ask all the creators and storage holders of this data and applications to be as upfront as possible about how they’re storing this data and how they’re securing it,” he finished.

Featured in The CW Chattanooga | May 11, 2020

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