Washington DC – As more states report cases of the omicron variant, the World Health Organization says contact tracing will be key to containing it.
States have been seeking contacts since the start of the pandemic, but those efforts have had to evolve along the way.
For example, the contact tracing apps used at the start of the pandemic have disappeared because they were not proven to be effective enough.
Today, experts say more states depend on individuals for help in the process.
The National Academy for State Health Policy is a non-partisan forum that has followed these efforts.
Based on their research, States used three main means of contact tracing: national and local resources, partnership with other agencies, or use of contractors.
Executive Director Hemi Tewarson said states are most successful when contact tracers are familiar to communities.
“I think it really depends on the ability of these contact tracers to be persuasive, frankly, and get people to come back to them. That’s the key thing, you have to have a two-way line of communication, ”she said.
This summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded millions of dollars to states for contact tracing, especially in rural areas.
Around the same time, the delta variant started to increase and states had to adjust those efforts because they couldn’t reach everyone who tested positive.
“Let’s think about how we make sure that where we think there might be a potential epidemic where we think there is a higher risk, collective care facilities, schools, etc. We’re going to make sure we focus from the state’s perspective in contacting tracing these people, ”Tewarson said.
As more people use home COVID-19 test kits, Tewarson said some states are now giving people clear instructions on tracing contacts within their social circles.
“I think we need to have confidence in people that they will want to do the right thing around their families and friends that they have been exposed to if they have had COVID,” Tewarson said.
Some states are also stepping up contact tracing in schools as another tool to keep them open year round.
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