Health Department scrambling to keep up with contact tracing

2 months 2 weeks 1 day ago Friday, July 03 2020 Jul 3, 2020 Friday, July 03, 2020 6:51:53 PM CDT July 03, 2020 in News
Source: Columbia Missourian
By: William Skipworth

COLUMBIA —As mid-Missouri experiences a rise in coronavirus cases, the Health Department is struggling to keep up with contact tracing.

The county reported 39 cases Thursday, the highest number in a single day throughout the entire pandemic. Tuesday, the state of Missouri surpassed 1,000 deaths.

"Our contact tracing efforts have quickly become overwhelmed and positivity rates continue to climb," Stephanie Browning, director of Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, said in a news release Thursday.

The positivity rate — the percentage of tests that come back positive — rose to 12% this week, according to a news release. The first week in May, it was 0.4%.

The Health Department has set a goal of attempting to contact every patient within 24 hours after being notified of the positive test, said Scott Clardy, assistant director of the department. After that, the department strives to notify anyone who might have come into contact with that patient while they were contagious.

"That's been our goal up until this point," he said. "I don't know that we're going to be able to reach that, certainly, with all the cases that we got (Thursday)."

Clardy said the department was caught up as of Monday on reaching out to COVID-19 patients and their recent contacts. However, the 39 cases from Thursday have overwhelmed the department's contact tracers. He said that, realistically, the department may have to change its goal to reaching out to patients within 48 hours instead of 24.

The Health Department has also had to scale back on its check-ins with patients. In the beginning of the pandemic, patients were contacted every day for the entirety of their isolation. Now, with so many active cases, department staff only do daily checks on patients with severe symptoms, or if the patient has difficulty getting groceries, paying rent or attending to necessities of that nature.

To handle the increased caseload, the department has been training more of its staff to do contact tracing, Clardy said. They've brought in department retirees and people from the community with a background in public health. Starting next week, they plan to get city staff from outside the department trained to assist.

Another way the department is trying to alleviate the problem is through a new data collection software program called REDCap. The software provides contact tracers with an easy-to-view database of all the people they need to reach. A text message feature that allows the software to automatically text contacts and patients so contact tracers don't have to is not yet operational.

Too social

Clardy attributes the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases to lapsed social distancing.

"The real issue is that we have people out in the community, particularly people under the age of 30, who are not practicing good social distancing," Clardy said. "They're getting together with their friends, and next thing you know all eight of those people or all 10 of those people have symptoms and maybe testing positive, and in the meantime, they've gone out and been with other people who may end up testing positive."

Clardy emphasized the need to do better in social settings.

"I realize that's hard to do with household contacts, but going out and socializing and drinking from the same cup and hugging and touching, those are not things we need to be doing right now," he said.

Clardy said young people contracting the virus is a more serious problem than it may appear because they don't usually become very ill.

"The problem is that because they either don't have symptoms or their symptoms are slight, and they think they might just be (having) allergies, they end up spending more time around other people who could be very vulnerable to bad outcomes," he said.

That would include grandparents, a relative with diabetes or a friend with a compromised immune system.

"So, (young people contracting the virus) isn't just an issue for that group," he said. "It's an issue for everybody."

Clardy also thinks people need to be more careful while they're awaiting test results. People should go home and isolate until they get their results, Clardy said, and if those results are positive, they must stay isolated until the Health Department can call them and give them further instructions. He said it would be very helpful if people who test positive started making a list of anyone with whom they might have had contact within the past few days.

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA- The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) was one of 11 states to receive a grant from... More >>
17 hours ago Thursday, September 17 2020 Sep 17, 2020 Thursday, September 17, 2020 9:09:00 AM CDT September 17, 2020 in News
(AP) - Police in Kansas City say one woman has been killed and another hurt when someone fired several gunshots... More >>
17 hours ago Thursday, September 17 2020 Sep 17, 2020 Thursday, September 17, 2020 9:04:00 AM CDT September 17, 2020 in News
As COVID-19 continues to spread, KOMU 8 will continue to update you about impacts in the community. Previous coverage: ... More >>
18 hours ago Thursday, September 17 2020 Sep 17, 2020 Thursday, September 17, 2020 8:11:00 AM CDT September 17, 2020 in News
CPS students could transition into hybrid learning, parents voice concerns Columbia Public Schools students could transition into... More >>
22 hours ago Thursday, September 17 2020 Sep 17, 2020 Thursday, September 17, 2020 4:19:00 AM CDT September 17, 2020 in Top Stories
COLUMBIA- Columbia police said officers arrested Tori A. Rose, 31, of Columbia on Wednesday for multiple felony warrants. The... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 9:19:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
MACON - Macon High School classes are going online this week for the next two weeks after dozens of students... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 8:58:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA – California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado are the main states that have seen extremely large wildfires in 2020. These... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 8:34:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in Weather
(AP) — The family of a worker killed in 2018, when a nearly 2,000-foot tall TV tower in southwest Missouri... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 7:50:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
NEW YORK (AP) — Basketball star Maya Moore has married Jonathan Irons, the Missouri man she helped work to free... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 7:05:42 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools students could transition into hybrid learning this year, and the youngest ones would be the... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 6:58:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA- Wayne Sells has requested that his name be removed from the Rock Bridge High School football field after a... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 5:59:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Goodwill Excel Center is almost a month into its first term and students and faculty are adjusting to... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 5:25:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
BOONE COUNTY- Entertainment venues, bars and restaurants no longer have to stop serving alcohol at 9 p.m. and close at... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 5:16:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The Mizzou Arena will serve as a polling place for Boone County residents on Tuesday, Nov. 3. ... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 4:00:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA- UPDATE 6:15 p.m.: College Avenue between Paris Road and Walnut Street is back open. UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: Columbia... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 3:07:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The number of remote workers has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the University of Missouri is attempting... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 2:25:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
NEAR MACKS CREEK, Mo. (KY3) - A horse at Lake of the Ozarks is okay after... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 1:02:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
As COVID-19 continues to spread, KOMU 8 will continue to update you about impacts in the community. Previous coverage: ... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 Wednesday, September 16, 2020 1:00:00 PM CDT September 16, 2020 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 59°
3am 58°
4am 57°
5am 56°
6am 55°