Health Department Shifts Prioritization Of COVID-19 Investigations
November 11, 2020
By Jessica Mathews / firstname.lastname@example.org
A second wave of COVID-19 is overwhelming the public health system and Livingston County is no exception.
Officials say Livingston County has entered into a second wave of COVID-19 and is experiencing an immense surge in community transmission, reaching higher case numbers than those seen during the first wave in early spring. The resulting strain is said to have resulted in decreased ability for local public health to effectively conduct and keep up with the increased demand for case investigation and contact tracing. Due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, there have been delays in the amount of time that it takes to contact all persons who test positive for the virus, as well as those who have been in close contact to someone who has COVID-19. Residents are being urged to not wait for the Livingston County Health Department to call but to take personal responsibility and action if someone becomes aware of a positive test result or potential exposure to COVID-19.
The Health Department says someone who tests positive for COVID-19 is contagious beginning two days prior to when symptoms started (or two days prior to positive test date) through the end of their isolation. If someone is awaiting test results, officials say they must stay home until the results are in. If someone receives a positive COVID-19 test result, then they must isolate at home immediately for a minimum of 10 days from the start of their symptoms or their positive test date if they didn’t have symptoms. People are being asked to notify their close contacts that they may have been exposed while they were contagious and encourage them to quarantine and consider getting tested. Those who test positive should further contact their employer to let them know so they’re able to perform contact tracing. A close contact is described as someone who has been within six feet (about two arms’ length) of an infected person for at least 15 minutes in 24 hours including brief encounters (it does not need to be consecutive minutes) with or without a face covering. The department says close contacts should quarantine—generally 14 days from the last exposure—since a person can be infectious up to 48 hours before showing any symptoms. Isolation and quarantine mean staying home from work, school, social gatherings, extracurricular activities and any other public place except when seeking medical care.
Health Promotion Coordinator Natasha Radke tells WHMI there’s really no option around the quarantine as it is put in place in case symptoms do develop. She says if someone is told they’re a close contact, they ask that they start quarantining right away. Because the county has entered into second wave and the department is seeing such a huge surge in community transmission, resulting in higher case numbers, Radke says they really need to maximize their staffing resources and prevent outbreaks among groups that are especially vulnerable. Especially because of the increase in cases, Radke says there is a tremendous amount of stress on the public health system, both locally and across the state. She says the system strain has decreased the ability for local public health to keep up with the increased demand and effectively conduct case investigating and contact tracing so the department will now be prioritizing case investigation in order to maximize staffing resources and prevent outbreaks amongst vulnerable individuals.
The department will begin prioritizing case investigations to notify those who are age 65 and older, especially those with chronic underlying conditions; children who are 18 years old and younger, especially those attending school in-person; and individuals residing in congregate living environments, such as long-term care facilities. All other individuals who test positive will be contacted as capacity allows.
Radke says they ask individuals who test positive to isolate at home immediately. If someone is awaiting test results, they should stay at home until the results are in. If someone receives a positive test result, the department asks that they isolate at home for a minimum of ten days from the start of the time their symptoms appeared or if they have no symptoms, then the time they received a positive test. The department is asking those who test positive to further notify close contacts that may have been exposed while they were contagious, ask them to quarantine and consider getting tested. Radke says it’s really just putting responsibility back on the individual, which will help to curb the spread of the virus.
With the upcoming holiday season, the Health Department is strongly encouraging residents to help reduce the risk of community transmission by social distancing, wearing masks, practicing hand hygiene, and gathering only with household members.
For more information, visit the provided link to the health Department website. Questions related to COVID-19 can be emailed to COVID19@livgov.com. A press release and flyer are attached.