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Missouri health officials assist local agencies with contact tracing

New cases tied to residents in their 20s, 30s
COVID-19 Test
Posted at 5:11 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-27 18:11:53-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While the state will assist with COVID-19 contact tracing, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said the work depends on local health agencies.

“They know their communities,” he said during a press briefing on Monday. “They have the trust of their neighbors. That is why it is important for our local health departments to receive the federal Care Act funding to build their capacities for testing and contact tracing local counties and municipalities have been given more than $500 million to support COVID-19 response activities.”

The state Department of Health and Senior Services has sent 37 contact tracers to assist on the local level. An additional 150 contact tracers have been trained, and translators and public health experts have been provided locally.

The following state-level responses also have occurred:

  • State employees identified to be trained as contact tracers.
  • Offering free, standard contact tracing training.
  • A new state contact tracing system.
  • A $7.5 million commitment to “modernize” public health technology.

Dr. Randall Williams, Department of Health and Human Services director, said that in Boone County, roughly 60% of those who contracted COVID-19 in a “college town” know who infected them.

“It's very obvious how it's being transmitted,” said Williams, who has previously stated in press briefings that case increases – and the state’s 8.8% positivity rate – are “specifically among a demographic of 20- to 30-year-olds.”

Though he said he is not trying to “stigmatize” that demographic, he referenced an example from Boone County in which eight or nine cases stemmed from one positive test.

“I think the temptation to go out in the summer and congregate is great,” Williams said, “And because we care about 20 and 30 [year olds], we do not want them to get COVID. We do not want them to infect other people, especially somebody who might be a vulnerable population or fragile population. We really, really need them to follow those basic public health measures.”

Missouri now is conducting 90,000 COVID-19 tests per week, according to Williams, which he said also explains the state’s positivity rate, along with a backlog in data reporting.

However, Williams said there are “never” delays in phone notifications of positive test results. Local health departments are made aware of the results within two hours, though the data might not be entered “into a computer for three to four days,” according to Williams.

Additionally, the numbers, according to Parson, are affected by when samples were collected, when tests were performed and when results were reported and entered, which is why the state focuses on the “seven-day positivity rate.”

“Testing matters,” Parson said. “We can use it to help fight the spread of COVID-19. And also, that means contact tracing is very important. Tracing the contacts of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 is an important weapon in the fight against COVID-19.”

Those who learn they have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should self-isolate and get tested, Parson said.

Williams said he expects the backlog to be caught up by Friday.

Johnson County, KS
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