COVID19 contact tracing ‘nearly impossible,’ local official says as state ends mitigation practice

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 5:33 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - There are currently 1,676 active cases of COVID-19 in McLennan County, but as of September 1st, if you come in contact with one of those people, you likely won’t get a phone call about it.

The department of State Health Services stopped its contact tracing across Texas at the beginning of the month.

In McLennan County, the health district said it handled contact tracing in the first few months of the pandemic before the state sent epidemiologists to the area to do it for them.

“We were contacting all of our active cases and giving them guidance on quarantine and isolation and then determined who they had been around who they had interacted with so we could find a way to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Kelly Craine, a public information officer for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.

“In the beginning, we were looking for the virus coming into the community.”

Those resources left in June, when new case counts were around a dozen a day. Now, that number is in the hundreds.

“Not only are you likely to interact with someone with the virus, it’s more likely three or four to five different people throughout your day who have been exposed and have active covid,” Craine explained.

She says the area is so opened up and travel has become so common that tracking down those close contacts is nearly impossible.

“Its really not productive to spend our time with each individual case,” Craine said Tuesday.

Instead, they are focusing on contact tracing in facilities like nursing homes, dorms and jails.

“These are places where people live together eat together and often times are sharing rooms,” she said.

In the meantime, they say it’s becoming increasingly important for people who test positive to reach out to their close contacts on their own.

“Let the people that you’ve been around that you are sick,” Craine said. “Make sure they are aware that they should get tested.”

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