The increasing politicization of contact tracing in California

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A sign at Manhattan Beach Pier advises residents to wear face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. September 3, 2020. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW

In San Diego, county officials are investigating nearly all coronavirus cases within 24 hours and contacting people who’ve been exposed. Meanwhile, LA County and Mayor Eric Garcetti just launched a mobile app for contact tracing. But elsewhere in California and around the country, there’s a deep level of mistrust toward contact tracers.

“What the leaders of public health departments and experts who work on this told us is that there’s widespread misinformation and just a lack of information. Just a lot of ignorance … about what contact tracing is and how it works, and where your information goes, and what gets shared, and what stays private,” says Alice Miranda Ollstein, health care reporter for Politico.

She says a lot of conspiracy theories have flooded into that information vacuum. “You have all these wild things going around the internet about how contact tracing is a scheme to take away people’s guns, or that they’re going to put cameras outside your homes to make sure you’re quarantining, or they’re going to come and force you to be tested and take you away if you test positive. All of these completely false things.”

She says this isn’t just happening on fringe websites, but people who have the ear of President Trump have promoted misinformation about contact tracing, including Rudy Giuliani and Laura Ingraham.

Credits

Guest:
Alice Miranda Ollstein - health care reporter for Politico

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin, Nihar Patel