Public Health Department Prioritizes Contact Tracing

Public Health Department Prioritizes Contact Tracing

Thursday November 12, 2020 – Residents can help stop the spread by taking personal action and notifying close contactsCalhoun County Public Health Department continues to see a significant increase in COVID-19 cases within Calhoun County. This increase is placing a strain on our disease investigation and case investigation efforts. As a result, the health department will begin prioritizing disease investigation and contact tracing efforts. What this means for residents is positive COVID-19 individuals and their close contacts may not receive a phone call from the Calhoun County Public Health Department.
Effective immediately, the Calhoun County Public Health Department made the decision to focus efforts on disease investigation and contact tracing for the following populations in order to maximize staffing resources and prevent outbreaks amongst vulnerable individuals:

  • Individuals attending K-12 schools and school functions.
  • Long-term care facilities (LTCs)
  • High-risk congregate settings
  • First Responders

It is important to note that communication is critical amongst our priority groups and the health department in order for the health department to identify the individuals listed above.
The health department will continue to consult with organizations such as businesses, schools, healthcare systems, and public safety on isolation and quarantine recommendations as well as best practices to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Individuals who receive a positive status are being asked to take the following steps immediately (see graphic): 

  • Isolate for 10 days. This means stay home except if you need medical care.
  • Notify your employer that you have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Notify all your close contacts so they can quarantine for 14 days from the last date of their contact with you.
  • Contagious period starts 2 days before symptoms appear or 2 days before positive test if no symptoms.
  • Resume normal activities only when 10 days have passed since symptoms started (or test date if no symptoms), you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medications, and your symptoms have improved. Continue to wear your face mask, practice social distancing measures, and hand washing.

Close contacts: 

  • Close contacts are those who were within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes total during the time the person you tested positive was contagious.
  • Close contacts should monitor themselves for symptoms. If symptoms arise, they should get tested.
  • Close contacts cannot test their way out of quarantine. Because the incubation period of this virus is long, close contacts must stay home for the full 14 days, even if a negative test result is received. A positive test result during quarantine changes a person’s status from a close contact to a case and informs a timeline for isolation.

It is important to note that the most effective public health recommendations continue to be wearing a face covering or mask, maintaining six feet from others, avoiding social gatherings, and washing hands frequently. Crowded, indoor gatherings are particularly high risk and should be avoided.
“As Calhoun County’s COVID cases continue to rise, adding approximately 100 cases per day, we have reached a point where Public Health Department staff are not able to investigate or notify close contacts as quickly as needed to stop the spread,” says Eric Pessell, Calhoun County Health Officer. “Within the past 10 days, we’ve seen more than 1,000 confirmed cases. To put that in perspective, if each case has 5 close contacts, this results in 6000 calls daily until the case completes their isolation and quarantine. We need the public’s help! If you test positive, you can take ownership of your positive status by doing due diligence to inform others and slow the spread in our community,” says Eric Pessell.
During the month of October, Calhoun County saw a significant increase of positive COVID-19 cases. On October 1, the 7-day average percent positivity rate was 6.5% with the 7-day average number of daily cases at 29. On November 4, the 7-day average percent positivity rate was 12.1% with the 7-day average number of daily cases at 82. By comparison, during the summer the average number of daily cases was under 20.
Residents can contact the Public Health Department by calling the hotline at 269-969-6990.For information, contact Lucy Blair, Calhoun County Communications
Jessica Vanderkolk, City of Battle Creek Communications