State epidemiologist ‘proud’ of failed agency’s COVID contact tracing program, says everyone is to blame » Publications » Washington Policy Center


Although he failed to meet his own COVID-19 contact tracing goals, the state epidemiologist is “proud of the state” for the program. On the other hand, he knows who is responsible for the state’s failure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and achieve its own goals: everyone.

Still failing to meet self-imposed goals, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced that its COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing is taking a “more strategic approach.” and only investigated targeted or elevated cases. – risky situations. Contact tracing is a program by which state or local health agencies contact people who test positive, providing them with information on how to contact people they have been in contact with to notify them that they may have been infected.

As we noted, despite identifying contact tracing as an important tool in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and promising to “see improvement over time as we refine our processes for contacting successful people,” the Inslee administration never came close to achieving its own goals. Goals. The goal, set in 2020, was that “90% of cases will be met within one day of the DOH receiving a positive lab result.”

The highest percentage of cases reached in one day by the DOH was just over 60%. More frequently, the percentages ranged between 20 and 30 percent, and even fell into the single digits for entire months. Far from improving, the agency’s contact rate was worse in late 2021 and early 2022 than it was in 2020.

Despite this clear record of failure — by their own standards — the Department of Health and state epidemiologist Scott Lindquist refuse to accept responsibility for the failure.

TVW presenter Austin Jenkins asked about the failed contact tracing, saying “how about the state’s efforts during these spikes to contact tracing? Is it a fair assessment from critics that they basically didn’t work or failed? Lindquist said, “I think it’s unfair.” He said: “I think contact tracing has done a lot to control the disease, but,” he continued, “at a time when there is so much contact tracing for the disease, it doesn’t not worth doing.”

He ended by saying, “I’m actually proud of the state, how they prepared early to do this contact tracing and how they backed off once the volume got so high.”

All of this ignores the fact that the DOH set the goals, managed the program, and compiled weekly reports designed to measure its efforts against those goals. If it wasn’t worth doing, they didn’t say so until recently.

Remarkably, he then tried to shift the blame to the audience saying, “I mean what person in the audience didn’t know if you were HIV positive, don’t go to work and school and if you Please don’t expose new people and yet we continue to do so. So we’ve all failed if we want to see it that way. Like Otter trying to defend Delta House, he tries to say that the fault is not with the agency but with society in general.

That was the approach taken last month by DOH boss Dr Umair Shah when asked about the state’s contact tracing failure. He said: “As we provide more and more tools to people, then we will really have to rely on these individuals to take action that will be protected for themselves and those around them.”

This is a typical pattern of government bureaucracies and responsible executives. When a problem arises, bureaucracies insist that they must play the lead role, citing their superior expertise. They extend their authority and explain that no one else is able to solve the problem. At some point it becomes clear that they are not succeeding and they either seek to blame others – political opponents or the general public – or claim that no one (contrary to their earlier assertions) could have solved the problem.

State government can play an important role in addressing crises, and in some cases there are few alternatives to agencies playing a guiding or directing role. Our expectations of what politician-led government bureaucracies can achieve, however, must be tempered by constant reminders that their ability to achieve important goals is limited. Moreover, rather than acknowledging shortcomings and adapting based on new evidence, political leaders are slow to admit failure and will work hard to avoid accountability.

Given the continued denial of their own failures and shortcomings, politicians and agency leaders seem unlikely to learn this lesson. Instead, when the next crisis hits, the public should realize that despite the promises of politicians and bureaucrats, the responsibility to respond successfully to the emergency will rest with them.


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