Linn County Public Health Ends COVID-19 Contact Tracing Efforts

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Public health officials are no longer investigating cases as of Friday

Linn County Public Health Ends COVID-19 Contact Tracing Efforts
Linn County Public Health Ends COVID-19 Contact Tracing Efforts

A medical worker gives a resident a thumbs up last May after taking a sample to test for COVID-19 at the Iowa Test site at the Kirkwood Continuing Education Training Center in Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Eric Bradley, Linn County Public Health

CEDAR RAPIDS – Linn County Public Health has terminated its COVID-19 contact tracing efforts.

Beginning Friday, the county’s public health agency will no longer investigate cases or notify individual residents of a positive coronavirus exposure.

Given the current outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the community and across the state — which has reached case counts and hospitalization rates not seen in more than a year — continuing these efforts will likely not have no impact, said Eric Bradley, deputy director of Linn County Public Health.

“Contact tracing is really meant to prevent the spread of disease in a specific area,” Bradley told The Gazette. “Whether or not we continue to do contact tracing, it will still spread.”

Linn County Public Health had spent about $158,963 to hire 40 contact tracers through Dec. 23. Ending the program will help preserve agency resources, Bradley said.

There are currently more than 4,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Linn County, according to public health officials. Last week, the county’s seven-day total case count was 1,186 — the highest since late November 2020, according to Gazette analysis of state coronavirus data.

The United States Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has listed all 99 counties in Iowa at the peak level of community transmission of the virus. The state remained in the “red zone” for several weeks.

As of Thursday, there were 64 COVID-19 patients in Linn County hospitals. Statewide, the number of people hospitalized with the virus was 747 on Wednesday, according to IDPH.

The department is also taking inspiration from the Iowa Department of Public Health, which ended its routine contact tracing efforts for all individual cases of COVID-19 statewide last August, said Bradley.

State public health officials have adjusted virus surveillance to follow its flu tracing model, which focuses case investigation on outbreaks in long-term care facilities, outbreaks in schools and infections among other vulnerable populations.

Bradley said the state notified county health departments weeks ago when the omicron variant was detected in their county, but communication recently stopped.

Linn County Public Health, among other Iowa County public health departments, has been conducting contact tracing since the virus arrived in the state in March 2020. The county has hired people to contact residents who have tested positive in order to identify others who may have been in contact. with them.

Although that effort has ended, the message from public health officials is still the same as it has been for a year and a half, Bradley said. Linn County public health officials are encouraging anyone who has not been fully vaccinated to schedule an appointment or receive a booster shot if eligible.

Individuals should also wear masks indoors and social distance where possible.

The coronavirus “is here, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon,” Bradley said.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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