Arizona's governor is calling in the Arizona National Guard to help with contact tracing more than a month after his stay-at-home order expired.
Governor Doug Ducey announced this week that he has requested 300 guard members to "surge" on contact tracing.
This action from Governor Ducey is at a time when there is widespread community transmission.
Since Monday, there have been more than 5,000 newly reported cases of COVID-19 in the state.
"There's never going to be enough," said Will Humble. "I mean, I'm just going to be honest with you."
Humble, the former director of public health in Arizona, said Thursday that adding 300 guards members will help, but it still won't be enough.
He adds, with so many new cases, that contacts will have to be prioritized.
"Let's find the family members, the roommates, the really close contacts. If there are coworkers with close contacts, let's track those down and move on to the next case because there's not enough time."
A public information officer with the Arizona National Guard said Thursday that they plan to have the first set of 40 guardsmen ready to start Monday. The men and women will have to go through training and will have guidance from the Department of Health Services to understand contact tracing.
"Everything we've done from the beginning is adapt, but that's one of the things that the National Guard is good at -- we're extremely adaptable," said Major Aaron Thacker. "Our soldiers are trained, they've proven that they can learn, they've proven that they can follow orders and they've proven that they're able to get the job done."
IS 300 GUARD MEMBERS ENOUGH?
According to a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Health Services, the state needs 400 contact tracers.
In an email to ABC15, they said that they currently have over 150 contact tracers that have been self-reported by jurisdictions across the state.
"We determined based on our most recent statewide six-week average case count, that we would need approximately 400 contact tracers and have activated the National Guard to fill in the current contact-tracer gap."
MARICOPA COUNTY CASES RISING
The cases in Maricopa County continue to rise with the highest number of cases in Arizona.
As of Thursday, Maricopa County had 23,880 positive cases in the state.
A spokesperson for Maricopa County said on Thursday that they plan to hire an additional 20 contact tracers in the county.
They are also bringing in tracers from other areas:
- 40 people at the University of Arizona are conducting tracing
- 85 Arizona State University students are tracing and they are expanding through a volunteer list
- 25 Americorp volunteers are tracing through ASU
- 50 people at Crisis Response Network will be online by July 1
"Everyone is aware the number of cases increased far beyond expectations in the past two weeks," a spokesperson wrote by email. "Public Health is evaluating adding more employees and incorporating technology such as robocalls and text messaging for low-risk positive cases, while focusing human resources on those cases that are most at risk of serious complications."
A Gila County contact tracer said she spends long days working to call those who have come in contact with positive cases.
"We won't normally start making phone calls until 8 a.m., and there's times I've contacted contacts and positive cases at 9:30 at night," said Stella Gore.
Gore said it takes a lot of people skills to talk with people consistently.
"It is an exhausting job emotionally and physically, but it's also very rewarding," she said.