Counties struggle to keep up with contact tracing

”It’s been a consistent and almost continuous job,” said Wanda Laramore, Director of Nursing with the Pulaski County Health Department.
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 5:47 PM CDT
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WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (KY3) - Like health departments all across the country, the Pulaski County Health Department has been busy doing contact tracing for new cases of COVID-19.

”It’s been a consistent and almost continuous job,” said Wanda Laramore, Director of Nursing.

As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 134 cases of COVID-19 in Pulaski County. That includes Fort Leonard Wood, which saw 70 soldiers test positive last month.

”They do a lot of contact tracing for me,” Laramore said. “They have been very, very helpful on keeping us up to date, otherwise we would have been inundated here with over 100 cases.”

Contact tracing takes a lot of time.

Laramore said it could take sometimes up to three phone calls to just one positive case to get all the information on close contacts. Those close contacts are anyone a positive case has been near, not masked, and closer than six feet apart for more than 15 minutes.

”Depending on how many people they’ve had contact with, how many people live in their home, it could take another three to eight hours just contacting the contact tracings, because you have to get all of their information,” Laramore said.

The Pulaski County Health Department has three nurses and about 15 people on staff. It hasn’t needed to request help from the state because of the help from Fort Leonard Wood.

It also hasn’t needed to train city employees to contact trace, like Boone County, Missouri, did last week.

”Some of these people we train today will be calling contacts this evening, and I think that will be a measure of relief,” said Todd Guess, Senior Planner for the Boone County Health Department.

Laramore said it’s not common to be able to trace a case back to its source.

She said health departments instead need to use that time to focus on other things, like vaccinations for school aged children.

”In order for us not to have another pandemic of other sorts, we have to get our children vaccinated,” Laramore said. “Health departments are inundated right now to where we haven’t given vaccinations to many children since March.”

Laramore said she’s thankful she has the military’s help, but said having more people trained to be contact tracers would really help a lot of other small county health departments across the state, as more cases of COVID-19 continue to pop up.

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