State to abandon contact tracing to local health agencies

State health officials will stop taking on new cases for COVID-19 contact tracing next week.

The state entrusts this responsibility to local health services.

The state – or the Community Tracing Collaborative as it’s known – has made more than 2.5 million calls since its formation in April 2020.

They have had over a million cases and contacts during that nearly 2 year period.

Many health workers, especially at the local level, have relied little on state collaboration. In Falmouth, for example, health worker Scott McGann said they had mostly worked only with the collaboration of the state after the worst wave to hit the region, following the last holiday season.

Falmouth, like most towns in Cape Town, has a contract with the Visiting Nurse Association, or VNA. Some cities have worked with the county for contact tracing. And Sandwich and Barnstable – they have their own public health nurse and they’ve been looking for internal contacts.

As the state announced the end of the collaboration, they also announced that they would distribute around $ 20 million to local boards of health.

Barnstable County Health Department is receiving $ 500,000 over two years.

This will allow them to hire three new employees, including a full-time epidemiologist.

The county worked with Yarmouth and Provincetown on contact tracing, but they also started working with Harwich, Dennis, Wellfleet and Mashpee.

County health nurse Deirdre Arvidson says once the city’s accountants find out they don’t charge a fee, she believes other cities will sign on as well.

Arvidson says that – at least for Cape Town – they should actually be better prepared for contact tracing than the state.

They know the region better, they know the dynamics.

“We’re a bit friendlier and a bit easier for people to reach,” the county public health nurse said. “And people appreciate it. They really do.”

In addition, the state will likely need fewer contact tracers, compared to the start of the pandemic.

Originally, contact tracers made a first call to see how a patient was doing, but also a few follow-up calls a few days and weeks later.

Now local health workers say the state has talked about simplifying this until that initial phone call, rather than frequent follow-up calls.

They also say it could mean the state is moving closer to declaring an endemic rather than a pandemic. Endemic meaning he will still be with us for a long time, but we will not have this fear of overloading our hospitals as we did at the start of the pandemic.

County health nurse – Deirdre Arvidson – says that while there may be more cases over the holidays, hospitals – at least locally – are unlikely to be overloaded with COVID patients.

This is because the vaccine drastically reduced the severity of the disease.

And with that, contract tracing could still be done for COVID-19, but it likely won’t have the same intensity as in the early days of the pandemic.

“Just like the flu, or pneumonia, or any other infectious disease,” Arvidson told CAI. “It will always be reportable, but at some point we won’t need to call every person anymore. And we’re getting there. “