Contact tracing ending in New York State

ALBANY, NY (NEWS10) – Starting this week, New York will no longer expect local health departments to perform COVID contact tracing for most cases. New Yorkers who test positive for COVID-19 will no longer receive a call from a county or even the state health department. They will have to self-quarantine and personally notify people they have come into contact with that they have contracted the virus.

Don Lehman, director of public affairs for Warren County, said contact tracing placed an incredible burden on the county’s health department. “New York State has reached out to the counties to let them know that they understand the county health departments have been carrying this weight for 22 months now and they have multiple retirements…It’s just a workload amazing.”

Before the pandemic, local health departments like the one in Warren County offered many services, but COVID essentially stole the show. “What fell by the wayside,” says Lehman, “is that these public health departments have a full caseload of rabies clinics and STD clinics and flu clinics and all those things that had to still continue, which is a full-time workload in its own right. ”

Now the hope is that local health departments can focus on other services. In late December, Schenectady and Saratoga counties decided to scale back their contact tracing programs. As for contact tracers, many have been hired as needed.

According to a statement from Albany County, “We have hired a few people on a daily basis for contact tracing and they have been reassigned to help with the call center and other COVID-related efforts. These per diems have been hired on a grant and were never meant to be permanent employees.

On Tuesday, the New York State Department of Health announced that it would launch a new website next week with contact tracing information. Governor Hochul also announced that local health departments may continue to make calls, but the state no longer requires them to do so.

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