Massachusetts offloads contact tracing to local boards of health

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Contact tracing is set to change dramatically in Massachusetts, with the state ready to hand over to local health boards the responsibility of tracking close contacts of people infected with COVID-19. The move essentially ends an ambitious state effort, announced in April 2020 by government Charlie Baker, which created the Community Tracing Collaborative, or CTC. Here’s how contact tracing works: When a person tests positive. for COVID-19, a case investigator will speak to the infected person and try to identify everyone they have been in close contact with The state has spent $ 137.2 million on contact tracing, a major investment in a process that continues to meet resistance from people who see it as an intrusion and a wonder. why it’s even necessary. “hey. They may not indicate that there is close contact,” said Sigalle Reiss, president of the Massachusetts Health Officers Association and director of public health at Norwood. Reiss said that contact tracing is still effective in stopping the spread of the virus in settings like schools where close contacts can be easily identified and quarantines can be enforced. At present, the city is sending all of its cases to the Community Tracing Collaborative and helps those in schools. But now the state is phasing out the CTC, completely shifting the burden to local communities. The transition should be completed by the end of the year. ” be inundated with cases once the CTC stops accepting cases? “asked Mike Beaudet, investigators,” Sure, “Reiss replied.” All of our staff have other duties that they perform. before the pandemic, and those plates are already quite full. So, putting the pandemic on top, it put a strain on us very quickly. And I think that’s the reason the CLC was formed. “Even though the CTC workforce has been significantly reduced from its peak, data analyzed by 5 Investigates shows that the number of CTC contact tracers has increased in recent weeks due to concerns about the Delta variant. As of January 10, 2021, the earliest date reported by the state, the state contract research workforce stood at 3,956. This dropped to a low of 175 in mid-August and the end of August. , and it rose to 576 as The CTC also supports the state’s exposure notification system, called MassNotify. The system allows users to anonymously report positive test results. 1.6 million Thanks to MassNotify, more than 82,000 people who tested positive have received links to send anonymous alerts to other users, and about 9,000 of those links have been used, according to the state. and six other communities a grant that will allow them to hire and share an epidemiologist and two contact tracers, part of the $ 7.3 million in federal dollars so far given to local health departments that partner with neighboring communities. But they’re struggling to fill in the “Unfortunately I think we’re back to where we were before CTC started, and we haven’t really put a system in place to be able to manage it locally,” said Reiss. This is another reason to increase investment in local and regional public health, according to State Senator Jo Comerford, Chairman of the Senate of the Joint Committee on Public Health. She introduced a bill to improve the local and regional public health system in order to bridge the disparities in the delivery of public health services. It’s still making its way through the legislature. “If we had a uniform set of public health standards, if we had a uniform staff and / or a semblance of a stable, resourced structure. It would be much, much easier,” said Comerford, D-Northampton. We asked Comerford if the $ 137 million the state spent on contact tracing was money well spent. “It’s a very good question,” she said. “In this regard, I am thinking of the CTC’s partners in health. Yes. And we needed the contact tracing. We needed her to be up in no time in the midst of a pandemic as she overwhelmed us. “The next question,” she added, “what if we had invested over $ 100 million in our local, local or regional boards of health? Would we have been stronger coming out of this? And the answer is also: “Yes. ‘”

Contact tracing is set to change dramatically in Massachusetts, with the state ready to hand over to local health boards the responsibility of tracking close contacts of people infected with COVID-19.

This move essentially ends an ambitious state effort, announced in April 2020 by Governor Charlie Baker, who created the Community Tracing Collaborative, or CTC.

Here’s how contact tracing works: When a person tests positive for COVID-19, a case investigator will speak to the infected person and try to identify everyone they have been in close contact with.

Close contacts are now advised to self-quarantine unless they are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms.

The state spent $ 137.2 million on contact tracing, a major investment in a process that continues to meet resistance from people who view it as an intrusion and wonder why it’s even necessary.

“We really struggle with community cases, with compliance from individuals telling us their close contacts, even sometimes in their household. They may not indicate that there is close contact,” said Sigalle Reiss, president of the Massachusetts Health Officers Association and Norwood Public Health. director.

WCVB

Sigalle Reese, president of the Massachusetts Health Officers Association, is concerned that local boards of health have sufficient resources to conduct contact tracing when the state ends its contract finding efforts.

Reiss said that contact tracing is still effective in stopping the spread of the virus in environments such as schools where close contacts can be easily identified and quarantines can be enforced.

Right now, the city is sending all of its cases to the Community Tracing Collaborative and helping with those from schools.

But now the state is phasing out the CTC, completely shifting the burden to local communities. The transition is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

“Are you worried that you will be inundated with cases once the CLC stops accepting cases?” 5 Inquiry Mike Beaudet asked.

“Sure,” Reiss replied. “All of our staff have other jobs that they did before the pandemic, and those plates are already pretty full. So putting the pandemic on top, it really put a strain on us very quickly. And I think it is. why the CLC was formed. “

Even though the CTC workforce has been drastically reduced from its peak, data analyzed by 5 Investigates shows that the number of CTC contact tracers has increased in recent weeks as concerns about the Delta variant have increased. As of January 10, 2021, the earliest date reported by the state, the state contract research workforce was 3,956 people. This dropped to a low of 175 in mid-August and the end of August, and dropped to 576 on October 19.

The current seven-day average of new cases referred daily to the CTC is around 1,000, according to the state.

The CTC also supports the state exposure notification system, called MassNotify. The system allows users to anonymously report positive test results to others. It has been activated by 1.6 million people.

Through MassNotify, more than 82,000 people who tested positive have received links to send anonymous alerts to other users, and about 9,000 of those links have been used, according to the state.

The state has awarded Norwood and six other communities a grant that will allow them to hire and share an epidemiologist and two contact tracers, part of the $ 7.3 million in federal dollars allocated to the services so far. health organizations that partner with neighboring communities.

But they are struggling to fill the positions.

“Unfortunately, I think we’re back to where we were before CTC started, and we haven’t really put a system in place to be able to manage it locally,” Reiss said.

This is another reason to boost investment in local and regional public health, according to State Senator Jo Comerford, Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Health. She introduced a bill to improve the local and regional public health system in order to bridge the disparities in the delivery of public health services. It still makes its way through the legislature.

“If we had a uniform set of public health standards, if we had a uniform staff and / or a semblance of a stable, well-resourced structure. It would be much, much easier,” said Comerford, D-Northampton.

We asked Comerford if the $ 137 million the state spent on contact tracing was money well spent.

“It’s a very good question,” she said. “I am thinking in that regard of the CTC partners in health. Yes. And we needed the contact tracing. We needed it to be lifted in the midst of a pandemic as it overwhelmed us.”

“The next question,” she added, “would it be if we had invested over $ 100 million in our local, local or regional boards of health? Would we have been stronger coming out of this? And the answer is also, ‘Yes.’ “

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