Michigan suspends contact tracing contract as COVID cases rise

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The move was not unexpected: In January, amid soaring omicron wave cases, the state instructed local public health officials to focus all contact tracing on schools and bring facilities together. of care such as nursing homes.

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But the end of the contract is another sign that health officials are treating this wave differently. The state remains in its self-designated “recovery (post-surge)” phase despite a sharp increase in cases over the past two months, with weekly case counts quadrupling since March 1.

“While we are seeing an increase in case rates, we are not seeing a significant increase in hospitalizations, intensive care hospitalizations or deaths,” said Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services. of Michigan, in an email with Bridge Michigan.

“We are carefully monitoring all metrics and will notify Michigan residents if our assessment changes.”

Michigan is not alone. Across the country, many states and cities that once passed restrictions are reluctant to add them again. Philadelphia instituted a mask mandate in April only to rescind it days later.

The moves come as weekly cases in Michigan soared to more than 23,000 last Wednesday from 5,600 in early March, but hospitalizations rose at a much slower rate than previous waves.

In early January, for example, public hospitals had 5,000 COVID-19 patients, but there are now fewer than 1,200. Meanwhile, COVID deaths are averaging around five a day, down from 56. per day in January, according to CDC data analyzed by Bridge Michigan.

The end of the contact tracing contract does not mean the state is no longer pursuing the strategy, Sutfin said. The contract with the non-profit started when local health departments did not have enough staff to reach infected people. Now they do, she said.

“These people were needed early on when the state strategy was to investigate and trace all cases and contacts. We are now only focusing on certain types of cases and contacts and using technology more to provide education,” Sutfin said.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 16 of Michigan’s 83 counties — covering more than half the state’s population — where it recommends everyone wear a mask indoors in public. .

But public reaction has been mixed.

In the Upper Peninsula, the CDC has identified Mackinac and Chippewa counties as high risk.

But Nick Derusha, health officer for Mackinac and three other counties, said “quite a lot of our population (is) done with wearing masks.”

Residents can change their behavior if they know infected people, but “not so much when the CDC changes a map,” said Derusha, who added that his contact tracers are now more focused on finding and helping to those who are infected.

Similarly, in Calhoun County, which the CDC considers “high-risk,” health officials are now focusing on educating people about personal risks, said Eric Pessell, the health officer of the county.

“Telling everyone to just wear a mask wasn’t working,” Pessell said at Bridge Michigan.

“We can’t be in crisis 100% of the time because we’ve lost people.”

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