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ND contact tracing 5,000 people

Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 6:58 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The State Health Department is contact tracing about 5,000 people. But as the nature of the pandemic shifts and the needs of the community evolve, it's becoming more difficult to staff tracing efforts.

One of the backbones to the COVID response has been contact tracing: calling and informing people that they were in close contact with someone with the coronavirus.

But the State’s Director of Disease Control said they need more people help make those calls. For every active case of COVID-19, there are five people being sought after to retrace steps and isolate to protect others.

And as more and more people return to work, the reliance on contact tracing in increasing.

“There’s a high likelihood that they’re working in critical infrastructure. And so they’re going back to work as contacts. And our guidance is that they’re still under quarantine, they can go to work. But then they have to go home, and they shouldn’t be doing anything outside of those two activities,” said Kirby Kruger, Director of Disease Control.

But the increase in cases isn’t the only factor.

Gov. Doug Burgum said he wants to see testing capacity go up to 8,000 tests per day; when the current capacity is 6,000.

“When they get up to that point to where they’re around 8,000 or so, that’s sort of doubling the capacity. And we’re gonna need to make sure we have the contact tracers to support that testing,” Kruger said.

As the need for contact tracing grows, so does the need for tracers themselves. For some time, there had been issues staffing the weekends. But Kruger said that issue has been resolved for a few weeks.

One of the first hiring bumps to the tracing staff was a few months ago, when state college and university students were brought on. And with classes starting in a few weeks, those university connections are being sought after again.

Copyright 2020 KFYR. All rights reserved.

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