Barry-Eaton District Health Dept. prioritizes contact tracing amid highest number of COVID-19 cases

Barry-Eaton District Health Department COVID-19 Dashboard
Posted at 3:11 PM, Nov 12, 2020

HASTINGS, Mich. — A west Michigan health department is seeing the highest number COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department said the increase means they don't have enough staff to contact trace each case, like they had been.

As of Thursday, the Barry-Eaton district had just over 700 active COVID-19 cases, according to their online dashboard.

They said they're averaging about 100 new cases a day which is 10 times higher than this summer.

"We have really been seeing our numbers of COVID cases skyrocket, especially starting around mid to late September. They have really only gone up from there," said Barry-Eaton District Health Department's Community Health Promotions Specialist Sarah Surna.

Surna said with the high number of new COVID-19 cases, the department is being stretched thin with both personnel and time.

She said they're crediting that spike to increased social interaction within the community.

"Being out in the community more, maybe just taking some of those precautions more loosely than we were in the middle of the summer? We think a lot of those behaviors have actually led to what we have now, which is the highest numbers of cases we’ve ever had since the beginning of the pandemic," said Surna.

In the beginning, the health department was able to contact trace each case, alerting people who might have been exposed.

Now they said it's almost impossible for them to do, simply because they don't have enough staff.

"The reality is some of these people who test positive for COVID-19 may never get a call from us. We are therefore prioritizing based on individuals who are positive and who have the most amount of risk of severe spread of COVID-19," said Surna.

It doesn't mean they've stopped contact completely with people who have been exposed. They're now just sending letters instead of phoning them.

In general, they're asking people to be responsible like continuing to wear a mask, wash their hands and social distance.

"We are going on eight months now, but the minute we stop worrying about a lot of those things, we will see and we will continue to see these large increases in cases," said Surna.

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department is currently prioritizing those with a higher risk of spreading the virus including first responders and those who live and work in congregate care settings.