December 8, 2020
Media Contact: Robert Parker, public information officer, Western Region, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cumberland Plateau and LENOWISCO Health Districts Prioritize Resources for COVID-19 Case Investigations and Contact Tracing
(WISE, Virginia) — Effective Wednesday, December 9 the Cumberland Plateau and LENOWISCO Health Districts, Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will begin to prioritize COVID-19 case investigations and contact tracing, due to substantial levels of community transmission of COVID-19.
Prioritizing enables the health department to focus available resources on investigations that are most likely to slow the spread of COVID-19. Local health department staff will prioritize their case investigations and contact tracing efforts to identify outbreaks and those cases with the highest risk of spreading the disease.
“It is nearly impossible and much less effective to try to reach every case and trace every one of their contacts in this time of substantial levels of transmission,” said Eleanor Sue Cantrell, M.D., director of the Cumberland Plateau and LENOWISCO Health Districts. “We have increased the number of staff working on case investigations and contact tracing, but transmission is too widespread for traditional methods to be effective or even possible at this time.”
The greatest opportunity to prevent transmission is among those testing positive whose specimens were collected in the past four to six days, and those who were exposed to a COVID-positive person in the past six days. This “last-in, first-out” prioritization for public health staff improves the effectiveness of contact tracing during a surge.
With prioritization, not all cases and not all close contacts will be contacted by VDH. People who develop symptoms should get tested early, self-isolate and advise those with whom they have been in contact to quarantine.
To protect others, follow these public health recommendations: self-isolate when you are sick or and while waiting for test results. If you test positive, inform your close contacts they may have been exposed. Teamwork and cooperation with public health will help slow the spread of COVID-19, reduce illness and save lives.
VDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to recommend a quarantine period of 14 days following close contact with a COVID-positive person. This is the safest option. Quarantine is used to separate those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and may develop illness from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are infected.
CDC guidance now includes two additional shortened options for the length of quarantine. Any quarantine shorter than 14 days balances reduced burden (e.g., physical, mental, economic) against a small possibility of increasing the spread of the virus.
For people without symptoms, quarantine can end after day 10, without testing (counting the date of last exposure is day 0,), or after day 7, if a viral test (PCR or antigen test) on or after day 5 is negative. After ending quarantine, continue to watch for symptoms until 14 days after exposure and continue to follow precautions including wearing a mask, socially distancing of at least six feet and washing your hands. If symptoms develop, get tested and isolate immediately.
VDH recommends that healthcare personnel, and residents and staff in healthcare facilities continue to follow a 14-day quarantine.
Everyone is encouraged to continue to follow steps to protect yourself and those around you: Wear a mask. Watch your distance. Wash your hands. Avoid gatherings with those outside of your household. It is safest to stay home whenever possible during times of high levels of COVID-19 community transmission.
For more information on how to notify close contacts and calculate dates of release from isolation and quarantine, visit local health district websites at the links under “COVID 19 Surge Resources.” Those websites are LENOWISCO Health District – www.vdh.virginia.gov/lenowisco/ and Cumberland Plateau Health District website – www.vdh.virginia.gov/cumberland-plateau/.
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