BRHD contact tracers overwhelmed as COVID-19 cases rise

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 1:52 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Blue Ridge Health District says contact tracers are overwhelmed. This is due to a rise in coronavirus cases and lack of mitigation measures that were in place earlier this year.

“The sheer number and volume of close contacts that we’re receiving has overwhelmed our system, and schools being in session, particularly those situations where bussing has become a problem in terms of close contacts, we’re having to prioritize who do we contact,” Blue Ridge Health District Director of Policy, Planning and COVID Operations Ryan McKay said.

McKay says it may take a few extra days for you to get a call from a contact tracer.

“We’re trying to reach them within 48 hours of learning about their test results or their exposure, and recently that has become more difficult. We are working seven days a week to try to reach everyone that we can,” Public Health Investigator Aaron Silverman said.

Once the positive test data is received, contact tracers start to reach out.

“We get a lab results in through the Virginia database of infectious diseases and then we call the individuals who have tested positive for covid,” Silverman said.

BRHD says it had to cut contact tracers as cases fell and federal funding ran out.

“We had to slim down to a smaller team of about 20 that would stay on board for potentially up to two years, and we kept a small crew for a weekend effort, so our numbers went from 55 to 60 to 20 to 25 over the summer,” McKay said.

BRHD says it could take up to four days to receive a call. If you test positive, it helps to reach out to close contacts yourself.

“We’re encouraging people we talk to that test positive to provide information to individuals who are potentially a close contact,” McKay said.

The BRHD says that if you test positive with an at-home test, also try and get a PCR test. PCR results are reported to the state surveillance system.

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