Massachusetts ends its COVID-19 contact tracing program

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BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts is ending its program that tracks people who were in close contact with someone with COVID-19.

Boston Globe reports there are no more state-funded workers to help track new infections, so the state has advised local health departments to only do contact tracing for COVID-19 cases in settings group where infections are more likely to spread rapidly. This includes health care facilities, homeless shelters, retirement homes, daycare centers and schools.

Health officials are redirecting resources to testing and vaccination awareness as the number of cases and hospitalizations rise.

Timothy McDonald, Needham’s chief health officer, wondered if now was a good time to end most contact tracing as the omicron variant spreads. McDonald’s plans to continue to contact all Needham residents who test positive and follow up on their contacts until January.

At the start of the pandemic, with thousands of cases reported daily in Massachusetts, local health departments were overwhelmed with the task of finding contracts. The state launched its contract-finding collaboration in April 2020 and asked Boston-based Partners in Health to lead the initiative.

The Partners-run program made more than 2.7 million calls to residents at a total cost of about $158 million, according to the state. Their work was due to be completed on Friday.

Phoebe Walker, director of the Franklin County Cooperative Public Health Department, said at this point most Massachusetts residents know what to do if they are infected and that funding could be better spent on awareness of the disease. vaccination.

The state is encouraging residents to use MassNotify, a tool that can be used on cellphones to alert people they may have been exposed. So far, about a quarter of the state’s residents have it enabled on their phones, state officials said.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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