Several local health departments will stop Covid contact tracing

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) — The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department is no longer conducting Covid contact tracing.

The department’s director of population health, Malcolm Lanham, calls it a “big change”.

“Since pretty close to the start of the pandemic, case investigation and contact tracing has been really the focus of a lot of the mitigation efforts…” he said.

Now their strategy is changing due to advice from West Virginia DHHR, which was influenced by CDC recommendations.

It’s a glimpse of normality in response to Covid that is approaching endemic status.

Lanham said: “…, I think this is a very good first step in that direction…”,

Now, instead of tracing and contacting people who may have been in contact with HIV-positive people, only HIV-positive people will be notified.

“The state will send a mass text message to those who are able to receive text messages,” Lanham explained.

Covid-positive people who cannot receive text messages will be contacted by the MOV Health Department. If they don’t respond, the health department will leave a voicemail with instructions on where to go for Covid advice.

There is, however, an exception.

“…, if an individual is linked to a known outbreak in a community setting – such as a long-term care facility, residential setting, homeless shelter, daycare.”

This is where contact tracing and case investigation will continue.

Still, there are more changes to come.

Lanham said, “Many employers have requested release letters from us and the state has directed us to no longer provide them since we are no longer investigating cases.”

This includes release letters for schools.

All this does not mean that we are already in endemic territory.

“If you’re going to a crowded place where you don’t know the people, you’ll probably have to wear a mask,” Lanham said.

MOV’s health department said it will put more emphasis on educating people who test positive and the rest of the public about Covid mitigation.

The Washington County Health Department will also no longer conduct contact tracing except for outbreaks in gathering places, according to their media contact.

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