READING, Pa - Dozens of part-time and volunteer contact tracers have been trained by the Co-County Wellness Center to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Berks County.

"The tracers are up and running," said Carolyn Bazik, the center's director. "They are making calls regularly. They're entering people who want into the self-monitoring system and the system is working pretty smoothly."

Berks County is not making the information-gathering mandatory like some places, but tracers said people have been more than willing to help.

"We do it on a voluntary basis, and I think people are happy with having a venue to go to whereby they can choose an app if they want to participate, just by their phone, and no one will call them or talk to someone in person," said Ed Michalik, the county's mental health program administrator.

In addition to people's willingness to provide information, another thing those behind contact tracing efforts said is also helping is the increase in testing at sites, like one in Exeter Township.

"Community Health Center is doing testing," Bazik said "There's some drive-thru testing down at Walmart, I believe, on the east side of town that's now taking place."

The recent protests in Berks have health officials concerned about new coronavirus cases, but there is a plan.

"For large-group settings, the [state] Department of Health is still taking that responsibility, so we are letting the Department of Health know in Harrisburg, and they have teams of folks who are reaching out to larger, congregate settings," Bazik said.

But one question remains: When will Berks enter the green phase now that contact tracing is up and running and cases at the county level are dropping?

"If since it's gone yellow, especially in the last two weeks, if the number of cases has been flat or going down, then they can go to green," said Dr. Rachel Levine, the state's health secretary, "but if the number of cases has been going up, then they can't."

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