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Hamilton County suspends COVID-19 contact tracing efforts during record surges, test delays, and problem reporting


Hamilton County Health Department does not notify close contacts of people positive for COVID-19, urges residents to vigilante the quarantine period, and shows that it overwhelms established public health practices in Chattanooga. I am.

The agency will continue to contact people who test positive on Friday, but will contact people who may have been exposed to each new infection until the current surge drops to more manageable levels. Announced that it will stop.

Health department manager Becky Burns said the change was due to increased testing, delayed results, and a strain on computer systems.

“This is a temporary measure and we can focus on ensuring that positive cases are notified and quarantined,” Burns said. “We have a very strong contact tracing program, but as the infection surges, we need to focus on reaching positive cases, at least temporarily. Notify our contacts. Asking people to do so means that more people will be tested and quarantined. “

The department also does not send letters to notify people when they can stop quarantine. Employers sometimes requested such letters for people to return to work. According to the Health Department’s announcement, people should plan with their employers for new changes.

Melissa McFitters, a professor of health policy research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in an email she was sympathetic to the health sector.

“They sound overwhelmed by the incident and decided that the contact tracing they could handle wasn’t effective given the number and timing of test results. It sounds like the community is growing rapidly and growing. It should be a message to all of us. We should play our part in stopping it. “

Contact tracing An important part of understanding and delaying the spread of coronavirus Since the pandemic began. Once a case of COVID-19 is identified, the case investigator will locate the infected person and test closely contact information (people within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) as they may be infected. Notify you that you need to.

June, Health Bureau Began to experience barriers in tracking work Residents have had closer contact and are increasingly refusing to participate in the department. Since then, local leaders have urged residents to continue their precautions, despite increasing levels of holidays such as COVID-19 fatigue and Thanksgiving.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Health has only been able to associate one-third of new cases with known infections in the last 10 days.

Contact tracing requires skill and time to work as intended, McFeaters said.

“It’s very difficult in situations where there are too few resources and the cases are widespread,” she said. “In addition, to identify the sources of transmission chains and achieve the expected effect of breaking those chains, they should be run immediately after the test is performed.”

Individuals to notify contacts and perform “self-contact tracing” so that the health department can use limited resources most effectively when community expansion reaches a level where contact tracing is too difficult. McFeaters said it was appropriate to ask.

Last month was the worst virus ever in Hamilton County. November 44 inhabitants died in the worst month for the virus..A record number of hospitalizations, active cases, and new infections Reported last week, 15 people died in the first three days of December.

Local hospital system I’m stressed by the influx of new patients And Care facility reported a surge in cases last month.Earlier this week, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Copinger Asked a former healthcare worker to return to work To relieve tension.

Mr Burns said optimistic residents could handle the responsibility of calling their intimate contacts.

“Contact tracing is always guided by the information provided by the case we are calling, so we are confident that the case can identify our contact and notify us as soon as possible.” She said.

In addition to the contract tracking changes, the Ministry of Health issued new guidance on Friday from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will allow people exposed to COVID-19 to reduce their quarantine duration from 14 days to 10 or 7. Announced to adopt the number of days under certain circumstances.

Previously, the health department advised people exposed to COVID-19 to stay home for 14 days. This is the maximum time it will take for the disease to appear, often referred to as the “incubation period.” In a Friday announcement, the Department of Health said yesterday “will continue to be the safest approach to reducing the spread of COVID-19.”

However, the CDC can now terminate quarantine after 10 days without testing and if no symptoms appear. If you are tested on the 5th day of quarantine and the test is negative, you can follow the new guidelines and end the quarantine after 7 days unless symptoms occur during daily monitoring.

People should continue to monitor their symptoms for 14 days and adhere to safety measures such as always wearing a face mask, keeping away from others, and practicing careful hand hygiene. According to the health department, those who develop symptoms or test positive should immediately be quarantined.

People who cannot stay away from infected people, such as when their families share a shared space, have a longer quarantine period.

Because the COVID-19 vaccine is not widespread and the disease spreads rapidly from person to person, the core of public health strategies to combat pandemics is the isolation of exposed individuals. According to the CDC website, 20% to 40% of people who carry the coronavirus are asymptomatic, but it became even more important when scientists discovered that they could still infect the virus.

The change in guidelines is a CDC attempt to provide the necessary relief to the overworked public health system and increase people’s willingness to comply. As COVID-19 is a new disease, guidelines may change as researchers learn more about the disease and how it spreads.

The quarantine protocol is different from the quarantine protocol for sick people. Sick people should always be isolated from others (including those in quarantine) until they feel well (usually about 10 days for COVID-19).

Contact Elizabeth Fite ([email protected]) or follow her on Twitter @ ecfite.

Please contact Wyatt Massey at [email protected] or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @ news4mass.


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