Onondaga County Forwards Covid Contact Tracing To Employers And Individuals
Syracuse, NY – Onondaga County has essentially halted contact tracing for Covid-19 as thousands of cases of the new omicron variant overwhelm the health department.
Notification of who may have been exposed is now the responsibility of the person who tested positive and employers, county officials said today.
At the start of the pandemic, when contact tracing was seen as a major pillar in controlling the spread of the coronavirus, a contact tracer could handle around four cases per day. This month, the county is confirming more than 1,400 cases per day.
“It is not feasible to do it in a timely manner,” County Director Ryan McMahon said today. “We contacted the tracing, trying to find the spread, isolate it, and see if you can find any patterns. Right now, the pattern is that it is everywhere.
Contact tracing is a common technique in public health to control the spread of infectious diseases. When a person tests positive for Covid-19, contact tracers interview the person, find out who they were in close contact with, and then notify those people to quarantine themselves.
It all now depends on individuals and employers, said Dr Indu Gupta, county health commissioner.
A person who tested positive for Covid-19, she said, should immediately go into self-isolation and notify all those they have been in contact with during the potential infectious period and tell them to self-quarantine. Anyone who has been in close contact with an infected person should self-quarantine, where close contact is defined as being within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes.
The county has detailed advice for isolation and quarantine on its Covid-19 website, and an organizational chart to help people decide what to do next. The length of isolation and quarantine varies depending on symptoms and vaccination status.
Gupta said employers should notify employees who have been exposed to an infected person at work and tell them to self-quarantine. Schools notify parents when their children have been exposed, she said.
“We’re not going to be calling everyone,” Gupta said.
The county also allows people to fill out their own isolation and quarantine documents, which is often necessary to show employers why a person was away and to file a request for family leave. Self-attestation forms are also on the county website.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Tuesday the state will no longer require county health departments to conduct contact tracing for positive Covid-19 cases. Some counties, including Oneida, had already announced that they had ended contact tracing.
“The burgeoning omicron variant has led to a staggering number of daily positive COVID-19 infections,” Oneida County Director Anthony Picente said on Monday. “There is no way the local health departments can cope with the overwhelming volume. “
In Onondaga County, more than 100 contact tracers were at work during much of the pandemic. When the county downsized operations and closed many offices in 2020, county employees were put to work calling patients and their contacts.