Why Contact Tracing Is Failing In Michigan

Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Chad Livengood explains that the sheer number of people with COVID-19 is a big part of the reason that just a fraction of cases in the state are being investigated.

One of the government’s best weapons against COVID-19 is its ability to trace the spread of the virus. However, here in Michigan, those efforts aren’t really working. The reason why is complicated, but mostly centers around the significant uptick in cases throughout the state in recent weeks.

Listen: Chad Livengood of Crain’s Detroit Business explains the various factors playing into Michigan’s failure to effectively contact trace cases of COVID-19 


Chad Livengood is the Senior Editor of Crain’s Detroit Business. He recently took an in-depth look at how and why the state’s contact tracing efforts are coming up short. Livengood explains that the ability of local and state officials to contact and investigate every case of COVID-19 in the state “has been hampered because of the sheer volume of the cases.” He says that the week of Thanksgiving alone, there were around 44,000 new cases in Michigan and just 8,700 of those cases were fully investigated.

Livengood says that in recent weeks, investigation of the total cases of the virus in Michigan is around 20% and right now, 91% of COVID-19 deaths are people over 60. Livengood explains that this fact is why there’s such a focus on contact tracing cases in older people. “They’re trying to get to them and find out what their contacts were,” he says.

As far as the MI COVID Alert app, which was intended to aid in state officials’ efforts to get a sense of the caseload and community spread, Livengood says there have been a lot of residents downloading the app, but not a lot of action around its intended effect of warning people if they’re around someone who has tested positive. “There have been 402,000 downloads of that app, but through Wednesday morning the data from MDHHS shows there have been 180 notifications of close contacts reported through the app,” says Livengood. 

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