Contact tracing not able to happen for every case in KCMO

The Kansas City, Missouri Health Department is now forced to prioritize higher risk case investigations and contact tracing due to a lack of staff to contact everyone testing positive for COVID-19 within city limits. The strategy, four months into the COVID-19 crisis, comes as cases continue to rise and the department is trying to hire new staff members. The department also faces a funding shortfall to pay those staff or hire any private contact tracing firms.Health Department director Dr. Rex Archer said case investigations and contact tracing, at times, has reached backlogs of hundreds of cases in the city.”If we can’t put out those individual fires, which one is going to end up as the forest fire?” Archer said. “That’s the problem right now. We have to decide, ‘Well, is that one likely to burn out, or at least we can’t get to that one, this one’s more of a threat.'”If you test positive for COVID-19, most likely your health care provider or testing site has told you already. Then the Kansas City Health Department steps in to investigate each case, and reach out to any close contacts of that person through a process called contact tracing. When asked if every person in the city who tests positive will receive a call from the Health Department, Archer said, “Yes, if we were staffed, that should happen. But it’s not happening now.”Archer said the department is focusing case triaging to higher risk populations, like those in long-term care facilities and meatpacking plants.He said providers are also taking longer to report cases to the Health Department, sometimes with incomplete data, leading to delays.Archer said it’s important for everyone to continue physical distancing and mask wearing to make sure the burden for disease investigation goes down.”What chances do we have that our schools are going to be able to stay open this fall, if we can’t get this under control?” he said.

The Kansas City, Missouri Health Department is now forced to prioritize higher risk case investigations and contact tracing due to a lack of staff to contact everyone testing positive for COVID-19 within city limits.

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The strategy, four months into the COVID-19 crisis, comes as cases continue to rise and the department is trying to hire new staff members. The department also faces a funding shortfall to pay those staff or hire any private contact tracing firms.

Health Department director Dr. Rex Archer said case investigations and contact tracing, at times, has reached backlogs of hundreds of cases in the city.

“If we can’t put out those individual fires, which one is going to end up as the forest fire?” Archer said. “That’s the problem right now. We have to decide, ‘Well, is that one likely to burn out, or at least we can’t get to that one, this one’s more of a threat.'”

If you test positive for COVID-19, most likely your health care provider or testing site has told you already. Then the Kansas City Health Department steps in to investigate each case, and reach out to any close contacts of that person through a process called contact tracing.

When asked if every person in the city who tests positive will receive a call from the Health Department, Archer said, “Yes, if we were staffed, that should happen. But it’s not happening now.”

Archer said the department is focusing case triaging to higher risk populations, like those in long-term care facilities and meatpacking plants.

He said providers are also taking longer to report cases to the Health Department, sometimes with incomplete data, leading to delays.

Archer said it’s important for everyone to continue physical distancing and mask wearing to make sure the burden for disease investigation goes down.

“What chances do we have that our schools are going to be able to stay open this fall, if we can’t get this under control?” he said.