Half of Americans diagnosed with COVID-19 don’t know how they got it 

Less than half of Americans diagnosed with coronavirus knew they had come into contact with someone who had tested positive, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report reveals. 

The CDC’s interviews with 350 people tested for COVID-19 at academic medical centers across the US is among the first in the country to examine exposures outside of group-living settings like prisons. 

It reveals damning risk factors. Only 17 percent of people who tested positive and were able to work remotely amid the pandemic – the rest of those infected had to continue going to their places of work. 

And, echoing the findings of previous studies, that those who got sick enough to be hospitalized were more likely to have lower incomes and to be Hispanic or black. 

Public health officials have underlined the importance of not only testing, but contact tracing, to combatting the spread of coronavirus and lawmakers, eager to reopen their states, want to. know where people are getting sick. But a CDC study found that less than half of 350 covid-positive Americans knew they’d come into contact with someone with coronavirus (file) 

So far, more than 2,683,000 Americans have caught coronavirus. 

Test availability has improved dramatically in the US, with between 400,000 and 600,000 tests being run a day in June, compared to about 200,000 to 400,000 tests a day in May, according to tracking by 1point3acres.com.  

But in the rush to test as many people as possible for coronavirus as quickly as possible, the second portion of the public health initiative to control the virus’s spread – contact tracing – may have fallen to the wayside.   

States have struggled to hire contact tracers, who will be key to identifying groups that may be on the cusp of burgeoning outbreaks.  

In the CDC’s report, contact tracing was done for all 350 positive patients. 

Only 46 percent of those patients were aware of coming into contact with a COVID-19 patient. 

Of those who knew they’d interacted with an infected person, 45 percent said their covid-positive contact was a family member. 

More than a third of the patients reported having a co-worker sick with coronavirus. 

Only 10 percent reported seeing a covid-positive friend, and 19 percent had contacts in other categories, consisting mostly of healthcare or long-term care facilities and a few who reported contact with neighbors, clients or inmates. 

Perhaps surprisingly, coronavirus infection was not much more common among those who went to the grocery store once or more times a week compared to among those who shopped for food once or more a week. 

About a third of the people who tested positive said they never went to the grocery store, 28 percent went out for groceries 34 percent, and 27 percent of them said. they went to the grocery store two to three times a week. 

Only about two percent of those who tested positive went to the store on a daily basis. 

The majority of people diagnosed with coronavirus and surveyed by phone (59 percent) had to go to work outside their homes every day during the two weeks prior to their positive tests. 

Nineteen percent of people who were infected went to work two to three times a week, three percent went to their workplaces just once a week and 19 percent were employed but never had to work outside their homes. 

Only 17 percent of people who tested positive were able to telework, and a quarter of people infected worked in healthcare settings. 

‘A majority of COVID-19 patients reported working during the 2 weeks preceding illness, and few had the ability to telework, underscoring the need for enhanced measures to ensure workplace safety,’ the CDC authors wrote. 

A disproportionate number of these people were black or Hispanic, and recent research suggests that the more frequently someone is exposed to coronavirus – vis a vis leaving their homes – the more likely they are to contract coronavirus and become more severely ill.  

Across the country, Americans are returning to work. The CDC published a list of recommendations for businesses to limit the risk of viral spread in their stores, restaurants or offices, but these ‘considerations’ are unenforceable and it’s not clear if employers are acting on them. 

During a Tuesday Senate hearing where infectious disease specialist Dr Anthony Fauci and CDC Dr Robert Redfield, Utah Senator Mitt Romney pressed the public health officials for ‘data on where people get infected,’ pleading that they tell Americans whether they can safely see one another outdoors. 

The new report, published the same day, makes an effort to answer answer that question, but its findings also point to just how difficult it is pinpoint the exact time, place and person that led to a transmission. 

‘Fewer than one half of patients were aware of recent close contact with someone with COVID-19, highlighting a need for increased screening, case investigation, contact tracing, and isolation of infected persons during periods of community transmission,’ the CDC authors wrote. 

‘This finding suggests that ensuring social distancing and more widespread use of cloth face coverings are warranted.’