ST. LOUIS – As the coronavirus pandemic continues health departments across the bi-state are contact tracing positive cases in an effort to keep communities safe.
This has meant adding staff to perform this task or moving staffers to a department that isn’t their usual.
The CDC said contact tracing is when public health staff work with a patient to help them recall everyone they’ve had close contact with during the time frame they would have been infectious. The staff then contacts the exposed people.
St. Louis City
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced a spending package in May that included $2.5 million for an additional 25 contact tracing jobs.
FOX 2 asked Krewson about how contact tracing is going in St. Louis city during her daily briefing.
“It’s going well,” Krewson said.”Contact tracing is a skill it’s done best by epidemiologists and by infectious disease individuals and so that’s what we primarily are using here in the city of St. Louis, our highly trained infectious disease people. We’re also using residents, medical residents, and some folks that are involved in the medical profession who are doing… an internship with the health department to help us. We are also hiring contact tracers but it’s really important that those people receive adequate training.”
Our calls to the health department were not returned
The St. Louis City Health Department reported 2,319 positive cases Monday, with 154 deaths.
St. Louis County
The Saint Louis County Department of Public Health reported 5,878 confirmed cases Monday and 551 deaths. On their site, they’ve reported more than 7,000 tests have been conducted in the county and that is due to people being tested multiple times for numerous reasons.
The Director of Public Information, Sara Dayley said the department itself is able to test approximately 200 people per day at their testing sites at the South County Clinic and John C Murphy Clinic. Dayley said they are continuing to increase their testing capacity.
As testing increases, and more people turn up positive, more contact tracers are needed.
Dayley said the department has 42 people who have joined the department “to do case investigation, contact tracing and contact monitoring.” She said they will add additional staff if needed.
St. Charles County
The St. Charles County Health Department has between six and 10 contact tracers working depending on the day. Previously they had between 15 and 20 contact tracers, some of which were volunteers.
“Now that things are more open, people going back to work so just people are having more individual contacts,” Public Health Public Information Officer Doug Bolnick said.
The department said in the last 14 days they have had 111 confirmed cases compared to the prior 14 days when they had 112 confirmed cases. This means the contact tracers must communicate with the 111 people who have COVID-19 and trace who they’ve been in contact with. The average number of contacts each COVID-19 positive person had in May was 3.93. The average so far in June is at 4.28. The highest average was in March with 4.49.
The county reported they had 63 positive cases that could be traced to multiple contacts in May. So far this month, 78 positive cases have made contact with multiple people.
The St. Charles County Health Department has reported 958 positive cases and 72 deaths.
The Jefferson County Health Department has reported 461 cases of COVID-19 and 20 deaths.
The county has a team of 10 doing contact tracing investigations. According to the department, each team member works through about 30 to 35 cases per day. The case investigators working on positive cases work through less cases, about 15-20 per day.
“We anticipate hiring temporary staff to assist in investigations which will allow JCHD staff to return to their original job functions,” Jefferson County Health Department Communications Specialist Brianne Zwiener said. “Our staff split their time between case investigations and their original programming when available.”
On June 26 Illinois will move into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan.
Since June 1 they have increased the number of contact tracers by 20 percent. They have over 550 people working in this position. Governor J.B. Pritzker said Illinois will add another 250 tracers in the coming weeks.
Across the Land of Lincoln $230 million will be disbursed to their 97 local health departments.
St. Clair County
St. Clair County reported 1,816 confirmed cases and 132 deaths Monday.
The county is piloting a new contact tracing tool for Illinois. The tool is within SalesForce. Brenda Fedak, Organizational Communications Manager for St. Clair County Health Department said the goal is to have people they are contact tracing be able to self report their vitals through the software.
Fedak said they have 12 people working in contact tracing who currently call those people twice a day for their vitals. Those people are existing staff members who now work in this capacity part-time or full-time.
The 12 are monitoring 103 people.
1355 have been released.
The Madison County Health Department has confirmed 816 COVID-19 cases, with 67 deaths.
The county has nine public health nurses who do contact tracing every day. This is the usual function of their job.
“They are very compassionate, they have very good analytic skills,” Director of Community Health, Public Information Officer Amy Yaeger said.
The county has added mobile testing to increase its testing capacity. Yaeger also pointed out that there has been an increase in testing because when elective surgeries were allowed again, each patient had to be tested 72 hours before their elective surgery.
She said their department has 36 employees making this a very busy time for all of them. She said it would help if COVID-19 positive patients could provide all of the information for close contact connections.
The department said 491 people have been released since testing positive.
But Yaeger said, “just because you’ve been released and you’ve completed your case isolation doesn’t mean you’re completely recovered.”
We are waiting to hear back from the state of Illinois and Missouri to hear how contact tracing is going in the states overall.