Some Paterson residents who've tested positive for the coronavirus aren't sharing their close-contact information, putting their loved ones and others at risk, city health officials warned.
"This is becoming a disturbing trend," Mayor Andre Sayegh said through a spokeswoman on Wednesday. "The result will be an increasing number of household contacts getting infected and spreading the disease within the city and elsewhere."
The numbers of people infected with COVID-19 could increase dramatically if those who have the virus and those who have close contact with them aren't isolated from those who are healthy -- or, worse, have underlying conditions but haven't gotten the virus, Sayegh said.
Several people who were otherwise healthy were urged to quarantine themselves because they had contact with the mayor, who tested positive for the virus.
That's because Sayegh provided a list of contacts.
The city's Communicable Disease Strike Team obtain the names of city residents infected with COVID-19 from the state and call them to obtain close contact lists.
They then call those on the list to suggest quarantine periods -- and follow-up to determine whether they've developed any symptoms.
City officials created the strike last fall -- before anyone had heard of the coronavirus -- as part of training in epidemiological investigations. More members have been added amid the pandemic, increasing the unit to about 40.
The team of medical professionals uses "contact tracing" to determine how close someone without the virus came into contact with someone who did. They then recommend the appropriate response.
If information is withheld from the strike team, "there is no monitoring of contacts and implementation of preventive measures," Sayegh said through spokeswoman Jessica Diaz.
"You are urged to fully cooperate with the strike team during the epidemiological investigation," the mayor said. "This will help to reduce the number of infections and the number of deaths in our city
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