The Arkansas Department of Health is ending COVID-19 contact tracing at the end of the day on Jan. 17, its communications director said on Wednesday (Jan. 5).
Meg Mirivel said the department leadership made the decision a few weeks ago for several reasons. Federal funding for the program is coming to an end, response rates were somewhere below 50%, and its providers – the Arkansas Medical Foundation and GDIT – were unable to keep up with the heavy burden of job.
The department contacted people newly infected to find out where and with whom they were. Then these other people could be contacted with information about quarantine and isolation guidelines. But many of those infected did not answer the phone or refused to answer questions.
Mirivel said the department will continue to conduct an initial investigation of school-age cases where families of new cases are contacted to collect and share information, but contact tracing will not follow.
Mirivel encouraged the Arkansans to familiarize themselves with the new CDC guidelines, which call for individuals to self-quarantine if they are close contact or to self-isolate if they are asymptomatic or mildly ill for five days and to hide an additional five days. If they are positive, they should let people know they have been in close contact with, she said.
Mirivel said the department uses internal contact tracing for other illnesses, such as sexually transmitted diseases, and these will continue.