Contact tracing program questioned after delays – CBS Sacramento
YOLO COUNTY (CBS13) – CBS13 has learned that several people have tested positive for Covid-19 and have not received calls or text messages from contact tracers for weeks.
This raised two questions: are people unknowingly exposing others and is contact tracing necessary?
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A person will test positive for Covid-19 and will only receive a call or text from contact tracers after they have already tested negative, meaning anyone they have seen in person in the meantime has already potentially been infected.
“If contact tracing doesn’t happen in a timely manner, it won’t help,” said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, professor of medicine and public health at USC.
Dr Klausner says that with the omicron Covid-19 variant prevalent, the program is of little value.
“Omicron has a shorter incubation period,” he said. “To effectively monitor omicron through contact tracing, calls should be made within 24-48 hours of a person testing positive.”
And it is not possible. Due to high demand for testing, local labs are being beefed up and positive results take several days to reach the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) which is in charge of contact tracing notifications.
“Last week in Yolo County, we had the most positive tests we’ve ever had,” said Yolo County spokesman John Fout.
Yolo County has had a record 238 cases per 100,000 people.
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“When you have that many tests, you’re going to have test delays,” Fout said.
Delayed contact tracing means potential for more Covid-19 infections.
“There are a few backups on the state system. The state system is a kind of failsafe. Other systems are especially schools,” Fout said. “If they have a positive contact, they will let people know, as well as workplaces. When there is a positive result, they notify everyone in the office.
So what is contact tracing good for? According to job search site Indeed, the average salary for contact tracers is $27.83 per hour.
Dr. Klausner says the money spent may not be worth it anymore.
“The contact tracing program should be redesigned,” Dr. Klausner said. “Staff could come out to motivate people to get vaccinated. They could also be reassigned to case management.
This would mean focusing only on reaching out to at-risk populations and connecting them to medical care.
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CBS13 reached out to CDPH to ask about delays in their system and if they were considering a new role for contact tracers. We haven’t had a response.