Clark County struggles to keep up with contact tracing as COVID-19 cases surge

Public Health officials no longer identifying, notifying or monitoring individual close contacts of confirmed cases; county recorded 1,100 new cases last week

Clark County Public Health continues to work through an influx of COVID-19 cases. Last week, more than 1,100 COVID-19 cases were reported in Clark County.

Last week, Public Health announced it was modifying its COVID-19 response to prioritize interviewing cases and identifying priority locations where exposures may have occurred. Public Health continues to work closely with priority locations, which include schools, long-term care facilities, the jail and food processing facilities, to prevent and mitigate outbreaks. Public Health is no longer identifying, notifying and monitoring individual close contacts of confirmed cases.

Public Health is working to train staff previously performing contact notification and monitoring to now conduct case interviews. However, the rapid increase in cases has made it difficult for Public Health staff to keep up.

Public Health is still striving to call every person who tests positive. However, given the increasing case numbers, not all cases will be reached for an interview. Public Health has begun prioritizing the most recent cases. Those cases who are not reached within two days of the positive test result will not likely receive a call from Public Health.

“We’re working with our local health care providers to ensure everyone who tests positive receives the appropriate information, even if Public Health is unable to reach them,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County Public Health director and county health officer. “The Public Health website also contains information for COVID-19 cases and their close contacts, as well as links to additional resources.”

Public Health has asked local health care providers to give everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 instructions for isolation and a handout for close contacts that details quarantine recommendations. All cases should isolate at home until they are no longer contagious and notify anyone they were in close contact with that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Public Health is also receiving an influx of calls from the community regarding COVID-19. Staff is working diligently to respond to all calls, however, response times may be longer than normal.

Here are some resources that can address the questions and concerns Public Health is hearing from the community:

  • Clark County Public Health novel coronavirus website (clark.wa.gov/public-health/novel-coronavirus):  Information about COVID-19 symptoms and testing, recommendations for preventing illnesses, guidance for cases and close contacts, and the latest local data.
  • Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 assistance hotline, 800-525-0127 – Available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
  • COVID-19 reopening guidance for businesses and workers website (governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/covid-19-resources/covid-19-reopening-guidance-businesses-and-workers): Requirements for businesses and details about Gov. Inslee’s statewide restrictions.
  • Report a Safe Start Violation website (coronavirus.wa.gov/report-safe-start-violation) File a complaint about a business or organization not following masking or other Safe Start reopening requirements. Complaints are directed to the appropriate oversight agency for follow up.