State offers one additional contact tracer per local health department

1 month 6 days 8 hours ago Thursday, July 09 2020 Jul 9, 2020 Thursday, July 09, 2020 5:38:00 PM CDT July 09, 2020 in News
By: Destinee Patterson, KOMU 8 Reporter
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JEFFERSON CITY – As cases are beginning to spike, some counties are struggling to keep up with the demand for contact tracing.

Dr. Randall W. Williams, the director of Missouri Health and Senior Services, said the state will help local public health departments by providing each of them one additional contact tracer.

“The state has been promising us contact tracers for much, but have not provided any help so far,” Stephanie Browning, Director of Columbia/Boone County Public Health, said in an email to KOMU 8.

Boone County is just one example of a county who is not meeting the recommended number of contact tracers.

One additional contact tracer will not get those counties to the sufficient number of contact tracers. However, the governor said the local public health departments have to take the ultimate responsibility for it.

“I encourage every county commissioner right now to step up and take care of their business - part of that is testing and contact tracing,” Governor Mike Parson said. “They can do that on their own. They can’t just sit around, waiting for the state every time to come in and take care of that problem.”

The Centers for Disease and Control recommends 33 contact tracers per 100,000 people.

Contact tracing for COVID-19 typically involves

·        Interviewing people with COVID-19 to identify everyone with whom they had close contact during the time they may have been infectious,

·        Notifying contacts of their potential exposure,

·        Referring contacts for testing,

·        Monitoring contacts for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and

·        Connecting contacts with services they might need during the self-quarantine period.

 

She said Boone County has 24 people doing contact tracing and 14 people doing disease investigation, as of Thursday. 

"While the ideal would be to have contact tracers that are able to dedicate their entire workday to the effort, that is not currently the case," Browning said. “Many are on loan to us from other departments and still have other duties that need to be accomplished."

She said most contact tracers are from the public health department, but some are actually employed by the city of Columbia. She said she would like to see at least 54 contact tracers on-staff.

“We need more people now and cases are still rising,” Browning said to KOMU 8 last week. “I’d like to see us have at least 15 more.” 

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