SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — By the end of this week the South Dakota Department of Health will have 86 people doing contact tracing related to COVID-19 cases in the state, said Derrick Haskins of DOH communications.

“We are using the Department of Health staff to do contact tracing and expanding contact tracing capability to include staff from throughout state government,” Haskins said.

More people can be trained on contact tracing as the need increases, Haskins said. 

Contact tracing is used when a person contracts COVID-19. The DOH is using an average of 10 close contact people with each COVID-19 case.

“The 10 close contacts are based on data we have collected during this pandemic,” Haskins said. “For those individuals and families who are closely following social distancing guidance, contact lists may be smaller. Social distancing works and minimizes the number of contacts a positive case has with others.”

Close contact is defined as within six feet for five minutes or longer which is CDC guidance, Haskins said. Close contact includes spending prolonged periods in the same room, direct physical contact, sharing eating or drinking utensils and contact with respiratory secretions, he said.

Haskins said the DOH staff interviews each positive case to learn who they’ve been in contact with at work, at home and places they have visited in the community. Staff then determines who they’ve been in close contact with based on that information.

“If they have symptoms, they will be directed to self-isolate and contact their provider should test results indicate they are a positive case, the DOH will move forward with collecting contact information from this individual,” Haskins said.

As of today, 598 Smithfield employees have COVID-19 and there are 136 cases in people with whom employees had close contact, DOH officials said.

Based on the DOH average of 10 close contacts for every COVID-19 case, the 598 Smithfield employees could have 5,980 close contacts. That’s more than 3,700 people employed at the plant. Close contact can vary depending on household size and activity outside of work.

COVID-19 spreads through sneezing, coughing or talking by an infected person.

Haskins said some research shows that people who do not have COVID-19 but may still have the virus can spread it.