Health services contact tracing efforts in ’emergency mode’ as COVID-19 cases increase

“Test, trace, isolate.” The oft-heard phrase provided a way to contain COVID-19 early in the pandemic. Although still highly effective and recommended strategies, vaccines have strengthened the response to the current health crisis.

But as the pandemic continues, these recommendations for public health – and public health officials – have encountered their own challenges.

The highly contagious delta variant has resulted in a spike in unseen cases since last winter. With more cases, the need for contact tracing increases – amid a shortage of public health workers.

Dr Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said state health services were “a little bit on edge” when it comes to contact tracing.

Local health departments are prioritizing high-risk environments, telling people who test positive for COVID-19 to call people they’ve been in contact with and using technology to leverage awareness, a- he declared.

State health departments are asking for help alerting those who may have come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

In Pierce County, more than 50 school children have tested positive since in-person classes began on September 1. Five residents of northwestern Wisconsin County have been hospitalized in the past week alone.

“We don’t know if this is the top or the tip of the iceberg for Pierce County. We are doing our best to deal with the spread of the disease in our community, but we need to helping schools, businesses, individuals and elected leaders succeed this fall, ”Pierce County health official AZ Snyder said in a statement.

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With more new infections than staff can reach, the health department is prioritizing cases for contact tracing: those under the age of 18 and those working or residing in long-term care facilities or in nursing homes. other gathering places.

Meanwhile, Marathon County is trying to hire more contact tracers. Officials say the local health department’s COVID-19 response teams are “critically overcapacity.”

“You don’t need to hear from the Department of Health to start isolation if you test positive or start quarantine if you know you are in close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” health officials advised in a statement.

But as pandemic fatigue increases, the level of cooperation from the public to test, trace and isolate is uneven and in some cases non-existent.

“I think one of the issues we have in Dane County and across the country is that we have this voice of voices telling people not to report their (COVID-19 positive) cases.” said Kim Whitmore, a Madison and Dane County public health board. member of Health. “We see this in sports teams or schools where they don’t want documentation of outbreaks or closures in their areas.”

“No one expected it to last this long,” Whitmore continued. “We should be supporting our public health services, not trying to demolish them. “

As of September 1, 29% of residents had downloaded the Wisconsin Exposure Notification app, which has been criticized for its effectiveness, along with similar digital contact tracing apps.

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