Report from Louisiana: Contact tracing the new normal?

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I was quite interested to read John Ruberry’s post on this blog this weekend in which he discusses the impact of Covid-19 in Illinois under the leadership of Governor J.B. Pritzker.  It all sounds so very familiar.

In Louisiana, we are waiting once again for Governor John Bel Edwards to move Louisiana to Phase One and reopen businesses. We expected this announcement two weeks ago, but Edwards surprised us all by extending our stay at home order until May 16, infuriating business owners, citizens, and a large number of Republican lawmakers.

As of last week, Louisiana’s unemployment rate was around 22%.

One of the components for reopening the state that Edwards will discuss today will be Contact Tracing.  Right now, Louisiana has 70 people trained for contact tracing which does NOT meet suggested guidelines, but Edwards plans to hire hundreds more.

Many are obviously suspicious about the concept of contact tracing and what information will be gathered, not to mention who will be gathering it. According to Governor Edwards:

The state’s plan considers people who have been in close contact with someone if they are:

Household members of the person who tested positive.

Intimate partners of the person who tested positive.

People who have provided care to you in the household or outside.

Anyone who has been in close contact – that is defined as someone who has been within six feet or closer for a time period greater than 15 minutes.

In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell is taking this a step further by requiring shopkeepers to keep records of everyone who shops, or comes into, their stores.

It is all very “Big Brother” and many are suspicious of giving information to a contact tracer. One new contact tracer described her first day this way:

Some people are a little suspicious. Some people hang up after I ask for their date of birth and address. I understand that, the mistrust of the government, having grown up under communism. But it’s too bad. I feel like they can benefit from this information: how to quarantine themselves, how they can protect their families, and what kind of support is available. Probably 50%, maybe 60%, of the contacts that I call on my shift don’t answer. Some don’t have voicemail set up. But I leave a message when I can, and several people called me back yesterday.

NPR details how contact tracing works and how it has been used in other countries:

The idea behind this public health strategy is simple: Keep the virus in check by having teams of public health workers — epidemiologists, nurses, trained citizens — identify each new positive case, track down their contacts and help both the sick person and those who were exposed isolate themselves.

This is the strategy that’s been proven to work in other countries, including China, South Korea, and Germany. For it to work in the U.S., states and local communities will need ample testing and they’ll need to expand their public health workforce. By a lot.

And while Google and Apple would love to jump in and get a piece of this governmental financial pie, high tech is not really what works in this case:

It’s not super complicated to understand why technologists are having a hard time getting traction. Traditional contact tracing has been honed over decades of response to disease outbreaks. Officials ask patients where they’ve been and whom they’ve been near; they then suggest those people get tested for the disease and make sure they quarantine, if necessary. Quickly identifying and segregating people carrying the virus can slow the spread of a communicable disease. “It works by building a human bond between two people,” the patient and the contact tracer, says Tom Frieden, the former head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York City Department of of Health and Mental Hygiene. “It means actually talking to someone and answering their questions, addressing their needs and concerns, and building, earning, and maintaining their trust and confidentiality.”

Contact tracing is not a new concept and has been used widely in many other outbreaks, but perhaps never to this extent.

At this point, we are all ready to get back to normal, or new normal, whatever that is. We broke out of quarantine as soon as Texas opened their border to Louisiana again and went to eat in a restaurant. We had to wait outside (in a crowd) for an hour to get in because they can only operate at 25% capacity. There were no salt or pepper shakers on the tables, nothing that has to be repeatedly sanitized. Menus are all paper and disposable. There were a lot of obvious changes.

The new normal will include a lot of changes that make us uncomfortable and perhaps suspicious. But by and large, America is ready to go back to work.

Let’s do this.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Brief Thoughts Under the Fedora: Dems (not) Opening Act, Flynn Facts, Obama worries, Tapper asks and No Livestream This morning

The Prospect of Elon Musk dropping California over their continued lockdown is highlighting one of the biggest facts of life concerning the left. For three years they were praying for a recession to slow down the Trump economy. Now that the Corona Virus / Wuhan Virus / CCP Virus has produced one they are desperate to keep the ball rolling. Unfortunately for them the President’s deference to the state on reopening is likely going to create a red/blue economic divide where states run by Trump supporting Governors and/or legislatures are open and thriving while states with Democrat governors or veto proof Democrat majorities hold their people back. We’ve already seen one LA district go GOP in a special election this cycle and if the Democrats insist on keeping people unemployed the revolt against the left might turn an election already looking bad for the left thanks to Biden into a disaster on the state level as well.


The dropping of the Michael Flynn case and the revelations that the Democrats were saying one thing under oath while saying a 2nd to their audience in a normal time might mean doom for them in general but I had a long talk with my parish priest on the subject and he’s noticed that when it comes to things political a real tribalism sets that blinds people to certain things. He gave an example where during the Clinton years a devout woman who would have never tolerated such behavior in her own family would comment. “The poor man, he can’t help himself.” People will find a blind spot when they need it and lately they really need it with the left.


One of the most significant revelations from the Flynn case has been the degree to which Barack Obama was involved in the attempts to destroy the Trump campaign and Flynn. This should be no surprise as Obama was always just a cheap member of the Chicago corruption gang who brought that game with him to DC. However the prospect of senior Obama people’s conduct being examined by the AG and a case that might even reach to the top is one of the reasons why the ex-president is getting involved, it’s also the reason why if evidence is found there is unlikely going to be any move against them till after the election so as not to energize the left.


It’s been interesting to see Jake Tapper questioning several democrats on the Tara Reade / Joe Biden double standard. Over the last few years he has been as NeverTrump as it gets but once the embargo on Reade ended he has not hesitated to challenge leftists on the new METOO standard of “believe all democrat candidates”. One might think this is more toward his roots and it is but if your goal is to defeat President Trump it’s necessary to get this taken care of now rather than later and Tapper’s questions actually serve this purpose better than anything the Democrats have done.


Finally this week’s Monday AM podcast was cancelled due to some issues at home. Barring disaster the livestream will resume Friday Morning at 9:30 AM and the Monday AM podcast should return three days later