Iowa Co. reduces universal contact tracing amid rapid spread of COVID-19

Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 4:12 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2022 at 4:54 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - In a move that signals just how quickly cases of the coronavirus are spreading, Iowa County health officials announced they will be adjusting their COVID-19 response efforts to reduce the amount of contact tracing they do to prioritize high-priority groups.

“The nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted, as such, the response approach needs to also shift,” the Iowa County Health Department stated.

Evolving COVID-19 variants, widespread access to vaccines and availability of at-home tests have all been tools health departments have used to help prevent the virus as they have developed.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has encouraged local health officials to focus on activities “that are expected to yield the greatest benefit in terms of preventing severe COVID-19 disease.”

Incubation periods for the omicron variant have been far shorter than prior strains of the virus, so Iowa Co. is moving away from providing universal contact tracing and case investigations. Essentially, the virus is spreading so rapidly that by the time health officials do connect with close contacts of positive cases, those people have already gotten ill from the virus.

Director of the Iowa Co. Health Department Debbie Siegenthaler stated that the new case investigation policies will go into effect immediately.

“This shift is meant to empower individuals to act when they suspect COVID-19 infection,” Siegenthaler said. “If you suspect you have COVID-19, seek testing, immediately isolate to prevent transmission to others and talk to your healthcare provider about medical treatment if you are at higher risk for severe outcomes.”

Iowa Co. officials still urge people who test positive to tell those around them of their diagnosis, including employers, schools or child care centers.

The department will continue to provide technical services, as needed, to high priority environments like long term care facilities. Iowa Co. noted this practice will prevent severe disease and death in the most vulnerable populations.

Iowa Co. health officials also assured that individuals who test positive through a PCR test examined in a lab will be relayed the result of their positive case.

The health department declined NBC15′s request for an interview Friday and referred us back to their press release.

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