HUDSON — Soaring COVID-19 cases means you might not get a call from contact tracers but you may need to quarantine.
The Columbia County Department of Health posted on its website and Facebook page that you may not get a call from a county or state contact tracer.
“Columbia County Department of Health follows CDC’s contact tracing guidance during times of high burden, which calls for prioritizing case investigations to focus on those who tested positive most recently. Contact elicitation and notification focus on household contacts and sensitive settings,” according to the post.
The county department of health instructs people to take action depending on their circumstances if they test positive or have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive.
“Basically we’re telling people that because of the high burden we may not be able to get in touch with you,” Department of Health Director Jack Mabb said. “We may not be able to call you and we just want to warn people about that.”
A person who tests positive, regardless of vaccination status, is required to isolate for five full days starting the day after the day after their test sample was collected. They also need to inform household contacts and other close contacts to quarantine.
If you are a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19, you must follow the Director of Public Health’s Order for Quarantine and you must quarantine for five days past your last contact with the person, unless you are both fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms.
If you had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 but do not have symptoms, the Columbia County Department of Health website states you do not need to quarantine, but you should wear a mask around others for 10 days. You should also get tested on day five, if possible.
The Columbia County Department of Health has letters available on its website for people who are required to quarantine or isolate because of COVID-19. The form may be used for Quarantine Release and for New York Paid Family Leave COVID-19 claims as if it is an individual Order for Quarantine issued by the Director of Public Health for Columbia County.
“This is for people who need letters to get back to work,” Mabb said. “It really is a function of we just can’t keep up with the letters.”
When health departments are facing a heavy burden of COVID-19 cases, they may not have the resources to complete timely case investigation and contact tracing activities for all reported cases of COVID-19.
In these situations, prioritization of public health activities may become necessary. As the burden of COVID-19 worsens in an area, and the capacity to investigate new cases in a timely manner becomes more difficult, the CDC suggests health departments should prioritize which cases to investigate and which contacts to trace.
The CDC has suggestions as how to assess an area’s capacity to conduct case investigation and contact tracing: High burden could be defined as a backlog of cases for each interviewer that is at least twice the number (100% more) they are able to interview each day; medium burden could be defined as a backlog of cases for each interviewer that is 50% more than the number of cases they are able to interview each day; low burden could be defined as a reasonable number of cases for each interviewer to call each day.
Columbia is not the only county to follow the CDC’s guidance in times of high burden, recently Greene County made a similar announcement informing residents they may not be getting a call from their state or local health department for contact tracing.
The Columbia County Department of Health on Tuesday reported two county residents died from COVID-19, bringing the total in the county to 117 since the beginning of the pandemic. The two deaths include a 62-year-old man who was unvaccinated and a man in his 80s and had been fully vaccinated and received the booster. Mabb said the man had a number of comorbidities and died of complication from pneumonia related to COVID-19.
The county has reported 10 COVID-related deaths since Dec. 1. Of the 117 total deaths, three have been people who were vaccinated, which includes the one reported Tuesday. The three who were vaccinated were all older individuals with comorbidities. The other 115 deaths in the county were not vaccinated.
“Based on what we’re seeing in other parts of the world, this omicron variant will run its course quickly here,” Mabb said. “I think the large number of cases we’re seeing now will drop off significantly by the end of January.”
The county reported 155 new cases Sunday, 126 new cases Monday and 107 new cases Wednesday. Until Dec. 28, the county had not had a day when the number of new daily cases reached triple digits.
About 60% of the cases in the county are vaccinated, Mabb said Tuesday. While these breakthrough cases can occur in individuals who are vaccinated, they are much less severe than positive cases in people who are not vaccinated. The majority of serious hospitalizations have been people who are not vaccinated.