'An anomaly:' Disease tracing links coronavirus-infected family with Ozaukee Co. business outbreak

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A case of COVID-19 in Ozaukee County recently put a young man in the hospital. How he got it is teaching health investigators some big lessons.

As a data specialist with the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department, Olivia Kulaszewicz knows the coronavirus numbers often start with her.

Kirsten Johnson

It was the data -- contact tracing, specifically -- that led the health officer to Patient(s) Zero in Ozaukee.

"This was sort of an anomaly, a healthy young adult became seriously ill," said Kirsten Johnson, health officer for the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department.

That patient's family also become ill. Everyone was symptomatic, except his father.

"As we asked additional questions, turned out the dad had worked for a company we knew had other positives," Johnson said.

Contact tracing shows at least 14 other employees at the manufacturing facility where the patient's father worked had COVID-19. The Ozaukee County man was one of them -- even though he was asymptomatic.

"This is a bit interesting because the person who became sick was not the person who got it someplace else," said Johnson. "The son was at home and got it from his dad...who was out and working."

Because of quick contact tracing, COVID-19 stopped with the family -- who isolated accordingly.

"Now that safer at home has lifted, I think the message is --- the virus is in our communities, it can be carried by people who are asymptomatic," Johnson said.

Olivia Kulaszewicz

Symptoms or not, Kulaszewicz knows she has a role.

"Knowing I'm here to help them and they need us as a department," said Kulaszewicz.

The health department has 50 contact tracers as of Thursday, May 21. In the past two days, the two counties have seen new outbreaks stem from a bar, a golf club and manufacturing facilities. As more testing results come in, Johnson expected the number of cases to continue to rise -- and more contact tracing to find the origins.