Health departments struggling to keep up with contact tracing

Posted at 5:06 PM, Nov 02, 2020

JACKSON, Mich. (WSYM) — Health Departments across Michigan are struggling to keep a handle on contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Jackson County Health Department is so overwhelmed with contact tracing now they are prioritizing with schools and nursing homes at the top of the list.

“Those are areas that could potentially have cases and we want to be able to get to them as soon as possible,” said Rashmi Travis, Jackson County health officer.

Travis said it’s taking several days to even begin the contact tracing process because new cases keep coming in.

“There is frustration in terms they want to be able to call everybody. In public health, that is a critical part in what we do,” she said.

The idea of contact tracing is to identify and potentially box in the virus.

“We are seeing thousands and thousands more contacts in our system than we did even six weeks ago,” sad Jonathan Warsh, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services chief of staff.

Warsh, who is in charge of the state’s contact tracing efforts, encouraged people to help contact tracing by downloading the MI COVID Alert app from your app store.

It activates exposure notifications on your smart phone.

“The way that is works is, it’s totally anonymous and its not linked to your name or any identifiable personal information,” said Warsh.

Travis is also recommending people to start some of this process on their own.

"Start to quarantine if you know what your test results are. If you know positives you’ve been in close contact with, start gathering that information, said Travis.

Health officials said you can help them by following the protocols such as wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands.

Warsh said more than 30,000 people downloaded the MI COVID alert app by Monday morning.