Fresno leaders waiting for answers on COVID-19 spread from contact tracers

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As Fresno city officials search for a solution to the coronavirus surge and potentially consider tough lockdowns, they say they need more data to make those vital decisions.

"We need to make decisions based on data the same way they take a blood pressure test and say, your blood pressure is high, we are going to give you this medicine or we are going to give you some breathing exercises," says Fresno City Councilmember from District 2, Mike Karbassi.

But obtaining that information hasn't been easy.

Karbassi says the city voted to spend a large amount of CARES Act money to fund Fresno County's contact tracing effort.

He still hasn't received a date from the tracing.

"I did that with the understanding that I would be able to get the data to make better decisions," he says.

Action News obtained a public information request made by the Fresno City Attorney's Office on Christmas Eve.

In the document, they ask the Fresno County Department of Public Health for information showing the spread of COVID tied to certain businesses, such as restaurants, barbershops, or big-box retailers.

But the California Department of Public Health admits those answers are hard to come by for any county in the state.

In a statement they said, "Since COVID-19 is circulating widely in California, it is not possible to determine the specific location of infection for the great majority of cases."

"Any gathering outside of the household is high-risk at this time," says Fresno County interim health director Dr. Rais Vohra.

Vohra says right now contact tracers are overwhelmed.

There are too many cases to stay on top of them all.

But he says there is science behind the closures: the virus spreads more easily in enclosed settings and places where people gather, such as stores.

"I think the basic science of this infection teaches us that whenever people mix outside of their household, that is when this infection finds its next victim," he says.

The City Attorney has requested that the Department of Public Health respond with its data showing the spread within 10 business days.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.