KDHE Announces Changes to COVID-19 Contact Tracing

TOPEKA – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) today announces that effective February 1, 2022, COVID-19 contact outreach and surveillance, also known as contact tracing, will be discontinued at KDHE. KDHE contact tracing staff will be reassigned to contact investigations. Local county health departments have already begun to scale back contact tracing, and K-12 schools that were participating in contact tracing under the Test to Stay program may also temporarily suspend contact tracing. Contact tracing is when public health notifies close contacts to let them know they have been exposed to an infectious disease and tells them what signs and symptoms to watch out for. Participation in contact tracing has always been voluntary. The decision to end outreach and contact tracing was made due to the increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 and the public’s willingness to participate has diminished since the start of the pandemic.

“As we enter the third year of this pandemic, public health must begin to adjust the level of response to help ease the strain on the public health system,” Janet Stanek, acting secretary, said. “The pandemic is far from over, but this step is a step towards managing COVID-19 as an endemic disease. The responsibility to protect yourself and others belongs to all of us.

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will now be responsible for informing their close contacts of their potential exposure. Additionally, if the person with COVID-19 has exposed others in high-risk settings such as schools, correctional facilities, long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, child care centers and churches, KDHE or local health department will inform the environment. The manager will be responsible for identifying close contacts and informing them of the potential exposure.

People who are positive for COVID-19 or a close contact of someone with COVID-19 can find information on what to do here.

KDHE urges Kansans to use the following tools to protect against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.

  • Get vaccinated and boosted. Vaccines remain the best tool for protecting people against COVID-19, slowing transmission, and reducing the likelihood of new variants emerging. Licensed COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths. the Vaccines against covid-19 approved or licensed in the United States are meant to protect against serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths in people infected with the Omicron variant, especially those who received a booster. COVID-19 vaccines are now authorized for people aged 5 and over. Moderately or severely immunocompromised people aged 5 years and older should receive an additional primary dose of vaccine 28 days after their second injection. COVID-19 boosters are permitted for anyone 12 and older. To find a vaccine near you, visit Vaccines.gov.
  • Wear a mask. Masks offer protection against all variants. Kansas residents are recommended to wear the most protective mask that fits well and can be worn consistently in indoor public settings, where transmission of COVID-19 remains high, regardless of vaccination status. For more information, visit the CDC website, Types of masks and respirators.
  • Have it tested. If you are sick or have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, it is recommended that you get tested for COVID-19. Go to KnowBeforeYouGoKS.com to find a free test center near you. If a positive result is received on a home test, self-isolate at home for at least 5 full days. If you have had a home test and need a letter from public health that you are positive, you will need to follow up with a health care provider for a confirmatory test.
  • Stay home if exposed. If you are exposed to COVID-19 and are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters, you should stay home and away from other people for 5 full days after your last contact with the person with COVID-19. Anyone exposed, including those up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters and those who have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days, should wear a properly fitted mask for 10 full days whenever you are around others inside your home or in public and watch for symptoms for a full 10 days. Do not go to places where you cannot wear a mask, avoid travel, and avoid people at high risk of developing serious illness. Get tested for COVID-19 at least 5 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19, or get tested immediately if you develop symptoms.
  • Stay home if you are sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive, you should stay home and isolate yourself from other people for at least 5 full days. You can end home isolation after 5 full days if you have been fever-free for 24 hours without using fever medication and your symptoms improve. If you have not had symptoms, end home isolation 5 days after your positive test. Seriously ill people should self-isolate for at least 10 days. Take precautions for 10 days, including wearing a properly fitted mask for 10 full days whenever you are around other people. Do not go to places where you cannot wear a mask, avoid travel, and avoid people at high risk of developing serious illness.
  • Social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene. People should avoid large gatherings and stay at least 6 feet away from others in public places, especially if they are at higher risk of getting sick. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

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