McKINNEY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – As of Wednesday, September 1, Texas will no longer be allowed to search contacts for COVID-19.
Overnight, the Texas Department of State Health Services removed an FAQ page about the practice calling it “the oldest, most widely used, and most important tool used by public health to manage infectious disease.”
The new state budget, which came into effect on September 1, prohibits the use of state funds “for the purposes of tracing COVID-19 contacts.”
Last year, Governor Greg Abbott announced a plan to hire 4,000 contact tracers to quickly identify and alert Texans who may have been exposed to the virus.
He then faced criticism and a lawsuit for a $ 295 million contract awarded to a small company Frisco.
A DSHS spokesperson said the agency was operating a contact tracing call center to support areas seeking help, but that it was “shutting down” on Tuesday due to the budget cut on funding of any contact tracing.
With the state no longer involved in contact tracing, the work is now left to local health services, but many are understaffed to do so.
Some have given up on the effort altogether.
A Collin County spokesperson wrote: “The county has not conducted a contact tracing or case investigation since June 1, 2020, when the DSHS took over.”
The county health department gave a slightly different response, saying it had staff limitations, but prioritized investigating outbreaks in facilities, such as long-term care facilities or schools.