Virus notes: July 19 -- Merced County slimes reporters’ investigation


MERCED – Faced with advanced warning of a well-researched statewide article in CalMatters about the abandonment of contact tracing in Merced County, County officials made a bad situation worse by lying, obfuscating, denying, while dragging a craven local press along with them.

On July 16, a day before the CalMatters investigative report appeared, the Merced Sun-Star came out with an article titled: “Increase of contact tracing, new testing site announced.” In the 11th paragraph,  there is mention of the county Board of Supervisors addressing the problem of lack of contract tracing by creating a position, paid by outside funds, of some sort of director to recruit contact tracers.

The only credible sentence in this interminable puff piece is:

The influx in infections has overwhelmed County Public Health to the point where officials are no longer actively monitoring each case.

In plain words, the County quit doing contact tracing.

“Contact tracing,” it is explained, “which identifies the chain of coronavirus transmission after an individual tests positive, is strained locally due to the mounting quantity of cases and the scaling back of the county’s coronavirus response.”

In plain words, under pressure, the County Public Health Department cut and ran and, as reported on this site on July 8 in the County’s own words, left it up to employers to trace contacts on a voluntary basis. This same event was reported by CalMatters on July 17.

In early July, a member of the Badlands Journal Editorial Board got word from a source in the health department that it had abandoned contact tracing and had gone to the voluntary employer system because of the large number of cases.

The response to coronavirus by Merced County government is redolent with misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance, along with rank stupidity. This squalid coverup, a collusion between the County Board of Supervisors, County staff, and the Merced Sun-Star, neglects the two important questions asked by actual journalists:

  1. Why does an increase in the number of cases lead to the decision to curtail contact tracing?
  2. How do you operate a public health department that has no credibility?


Abbie Lauten-Scrivner, “Increase of contact tracing, new testing site announced,” Merced Sun-Star, July 16, 2020


Rebecca Sohn, “Without a Trace: This California County Has Stopped Contact Tracing As Coronavirus Surges,” CalMatters/Patch/Badlands Journal, July 17, 2020