NewsLocal NewsGrand Rapids


Health department days behind in contact tracing

Posted at 12:09 AM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 00:09:39-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan's top doctor singled out the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo areas as having the highest positivity test rates in all of the state.

"Both regions have the highest test positivity rate rate in the state at ovr 9%," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Officer of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

With roughly 400 new confirmed cases per day in Kent County, staff working on contact tracing are now encountering a backlog of cases. This comes despite adding additional staff and volunteers specifically to the effort from other departments.

The Kent County Health Department has a goal to begin contact tracing on every positive case within a 24 hour period, but the sheer volume of positive tests are creating a backlog.

"It’s really challenging to keep up with that amount of cases. So I would say that right now, we are a few days behind, that is for sure. Three to four days behind in our numbers," said Brian Hartl, Epidemiologist Supervisor with the Kent County Health Department.

The delay means they may not be able to contact those who have been exposed to ask them to quarantine, meaning it may be contributing to further community spread.

"It is a worry for sure. We know that contact tracing is one of the key components for public health to reduce the spread in our communities," said Hartl.

In response, the health department is trying to use some different tools to get the word out to inform someone they have indeed tested positive. Currently, they are texting people with test results with a link to a survey.

Hartl says many people who have been exposed have begun the isolation process before the contact tracing team reaches out.

If you have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive, you are asked to quarantine for 14 days or for 10 days after the onset of symptoms.