PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A poll watcher in West Philadelphia says she contracted coronavirus. She says she’s not sure if she contracted the disease prior to working the polls, at the polls, or after the election.
But she says the city needs to start with her case as they ramp up contact tracing.
“I feel fine, but I’m not fine. I have this virus within me,” Andrea Johnson said.
Johnson worked as a poll watcher at Andrew Hamilton School during the June 2 primary. She says she believes that is when she contracted COVID-19.
“I really feel as though being around that many people, even with a mask on, it was bound to happen because there was no way I could socially distance,” Johnson said.
Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 10 days after serving at the polling site. She says she’s asymptomatic.
Johnson says she contacted election officials and they contacted the people who she knows she was in contact with.
This comes as the city announced it will be hiring 83 people to do contact tracing. They will interview people who have been in contact with someone who tested positive.
The city is teaming up with Penn Medicine for its efforts. Dr. Ala Sanford, with the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, says contact tracing is just as important as testing.
“It’s not enough to just diagnose and treat and reach out to those contacts. Once you find them, how can you help them to stop spreading the disease?” Sanford said.
The consortium held another free testing site outside Monumental Baptist Church in West Philadelphia Wednesday afternoon. Since mid-April, they’ve tested 6,000 people.
With contact tracing, Sanford says no one has done enough.
“I’m not just going to pinpoint Pennsylvania or Philly, no one has, no one has. We were woefully ill-prepared for this pandemic as it struck our nation,” Sanford said.
Going into November’s general election, Johnson says she hopes the city is prepared.
“I think that the community should be aware. Not to scare, but to put them on notice that this is someone you’ve been in contact with like contact tracers are supposed to do,” Johnson said.
Going back to Johnson’s case, the city’s health department says: “The Health Department is not currently investigating where people are being exposed, like some of the suburban counties are. There are simply too many new cases per day to adequately track down what types of settings might be spreading COVID.”
The health department went on to say they hope to implement more robust contact tracing as its program gets underway.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, officials announced Wednesday they are partnering with Rutgers University and plan to hire 1,000 tracers.