As COVID-19 testing expands and cases increase across the state, health departments are struggling to keep up with contact tracing. Delay in contact tracing has resulted from a variety of factors:
• it may take several days for local health department to receive positive results;
• not all lab results are received;
• not all lab results have the correct contact information and many do not have contact information at all;
• many people avoid answering the phone or do not give complete information;
• an increasing number of positive cases are declining to disclose their direct contacts and instead report that they will notify their contacts on their own;
• an increasing number of contacts believe they are incorrectly being named as direct contacts by cases and would rather be contacted by the person they know than a stranger/ public health professional.
Health Departments across our region have worked tirelessly to contact each and every positive case as well as all close contacts. However, cases continue to rise. With widespread community transmission of COVID-19, contact tracing has shown to be ineffective in determining where a case may have been exposed to COVID-19 or which individuals they may have exposed during their communicable period. After exploring expedited contact tracing and community mitigation strategies, the Gasconade County Health Department, is shifting to a modified approach to contact tracing which will allow positive cases to immediately notify their contacts as soon as they receive positive lab results.
Moving forward, individuals should not wait for instructions or information from their respective health department. Those that are positive for COVID-19 should refer to the ‘COVID-19 Patient Guidance Tool’. This form will be provided to testing sites in our area to hand out to patients. A copy may also be requested by calling (573) 486-3129, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Given the rapidly increasing cases of COVID-19, the health department will also be prioritizing case investigation to our vulnerable populations. All positive cases will be expected to notify their contacts. This will eliminate the wait time and hopefully, stop people from unknowingly spreading the virus. We are also hopeful that people will feel more comfortable telling their contacts about their positive result versus a stranger on the phone.
The Gasconade County Health Department will continue to assist places where outbreaks are more likely to occur, such as businesses, schools, and long-term care facilities. Contact tracing may still be implemented in those situations.
The Gasconade County Health Department may no longer be calling non household close contacts of positive cases. We will focus efforts on case investigations and household contact quarantine. If you get a call from your doctor with a positive result, you need to take immediate action to slow the spread of the virus within your friends, family and coworkers by following the
outlined steps on ‘COVID-19 Patient Guidance Tool’ handout. Please DO NOT wait for a call from the health department to implement your own contact tracing.
You will need to notify everyone with whom you have had close contact. A close contact is anyone that you were within 6 feet of for more than 15 minutes total starting 2 days prior to becoming symptomatic, regardless of the use of cloth face coverings. A close contact may also be someone that you were within the same closed space for an hour or longer, such as a small room or a vehicle.
Please take action now to reduce that number on a daily basis. Keeping your distance from those outside of your household is important in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
The Gasconade County Health Department has observed clusters of positive cases at local businesses, group gatherings, and long-term care facilities. We have also seen numerous cases from household exposures to a known case.
We are urging everyone to continue to take responsibility for their own health and to protect others. Please reconsider hosting or attending gatherings that bring together people that are outside of your normal interactions, especially if physical distancing cannot be maintained. These activities are high risk for transmission of the virus. Please adhere to physical distancing recommendations and limit contact with others outside of your household.
In addition to limiting social interactions, the Gasconade County Health Department is still strongly recommending that everyone take precautionary measures to reduce the spread of the virus.
• Stay home if you are sick.
• Adhere to all social distancing recommendations and avoid being within 6 feet of others outside of your household
• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating. If not available, use hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
• It is recommended that face coverings be worn anytime maintaining 6 feet of separation from anyone outside of your household at all times may be difficult. Cloth face coverings are effective at limiting spread of the disease by reducing the distance that infectious travel from around 6 feet to a much smaller area closer to your face. Infectious droplets are droplets of saliva or mucus that are expelled when speaking, sneezing, or coughing. This does not protect you so much as all those that are around you. A person becomes infectious with the disease two full days before they have any idea that they have been infected themselves
Cloth face coverings are not considered an acceptable substitute for social distancing. Interactions within 6 feet of a positive case for more than 15 minutes total will be considered an exposure regardless if either person is wearing a cloth face covering.