OSDH changes focus to vaccinations, reduces contact tracing

OSDH changes focus to vaccinations, reduces contact tracing-1/27/21

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) -The Oklahoma State Department of Health has stopped contact tracing, except for a few select groups.

Instead, they’re asking the general public to do their own contact tracing.

Since the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, priorities have shifted to getting as many people vaccinated as possible, taking away the man power to devote to contact tracing.

“Initially we were going out and we were calling every single person every positive case we’re doing an interview and we’re asking who you’ve been around so that we can then ask them to quarantine, stay at home, stay out of the public,” said Brandie Combs, Regional Health Department Director. “As we progress through this pandemic everyone knows what they should do and so the importance of staying out of public is to stop the spread.”

Combs says they’re now asking the person who tested positive to do the contact tracing.

“We’re still calling every case so the person that test positive were still calling them and then what we’re saying is please make sure within this window, so their infectious period, please make sure you contact anyone that you’ve been around within six feet for more than 15 minutes,” said Combs.

The definition of exposure has remained the same throughout the pandemic Combs says, which is being within 6 feet of someone whose tested positive for more than 15 minutes.

Also, the infectious period for those who have been exposed has not changed.

“If someone tests positive, we ask them to go back two days before they started having symptoms and identify anyone that they’ve been around within six feet for more than 15 minutes, up until current date,” said Combs. “If you’re asymptomatic, we start from the test date and moving forward to current day. If you’re symptomatic, we go two days prior to onset of symptoms and then move forward. And those are the people that we want to capture in that contact tracing.”

She says, contact tracing remains extremely important in the battle against COVID-19 in our country.

“We can’t get ahead of this virus if we if we abandon contact tracing,” said Combs. “So it’s really important that if people know that they’ve been exposed, don’t wait for a call from the health department, do what you know to do, which is just stay home and stay away from the public.”

The health departments are still making calls for contact tracing in school systems, long term care facilities, and any congregate living situations like homeless shelters, or prisons.

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