Governor: County health departments may end contact tracing programs

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As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 sweeps across the state, New York is ending its contact tracing program.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced the change in strategy during a press briefing with Dr Mary Bassett, state health commissioner, on Tuesday.

“Omicron is very contagious. It has a very short incubation period and a lot more people are tested, ”said Dr Bassett, explaining that local health departments are struggling to keep up with contact tracing, especially in light of guidelines. Isolation shortcuts recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Positive infections will now be self-monitored, officials said, meaning isolation, quarantine and notification of anyone they were in close contact with will no longer involve health services.

“It will help local and national health service staff to focus on where we can make the biggest difference: testing and immunization,” Dr Bassett said.

Under current state guidelines, those who are not fully vaccinated or fully vaccinated and eligible for a booster but not yet boosted and who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 are required to self-quarantine for five days and wear a mask for an additional five days.

Fully vaccinated and boosted people who are asymptomatic after exposure to COVID-19 do not need to self-quarantine but must continue to wear a mask around others for 10 days.

As part of the contact tracing program, those who tested positive for COVID-19 received a call from their state or local health department to answer questions about other people they may have been with. in touch. Contact tracers would then call those nearby contacts with instructions to quarantine.

Now that information will be available on new websites that are expected to launch on Wednesday morning, Dr Bassett said.

All guidelines and forms that you may need to submit to an employer are available at ny.gov/isolator and ny.gov/quarantine.

Ms Hochul said on Tuesday that the decision to stop or continue contact tracing would be up to each county.

“If they decide to continue they are more than welcome, but it is in response to their request that we have almost 12,000 new cases per day and it is impossible to trace the contacts as they have. done in the past, ”she said.

Several counties in the northern part of the state have asked the state to make the change and some have already announced their intention to end contact tracing. Spokesmen for the Department of Health Services and the County Executive Office both said they were awaiting guidance which the governor said would be available on the state’s website on Wednesday.

As COVID-19 cases remain high statewide – with 48,686 new cases reported in the past 24 hours – Ms Hochul said these numbers reflect a ‘silver lining’ and believes the numbers will start to cap.

“Looks like we’re crossing that peak,” the governor said of the winter surge.

Statewide, there are 12,540 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 945 patients in Suffolk County. Of the 945 patients, 118 are in intensive care, according to data released by the county health services department.

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