116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County Public Health has ended its COVID-19 contact tracing efforts.
Effective Friday, the county public health agency will no longer conduct case investigation and notify individual residents of positive coronavirus exposure.
Given the current surge of the novel coronavirus in the community and throughout the state — which has reached case counts and hospitalization rates not seen in more than a year — continuing those efforts will likely not have an impact, said Eric Bradley, deputy director of Linn County Public Health.
“Contact tracing is really meant to prevent further spread of disease in a specific region,” Bradley told The Gazette. “Whether or not we continue to do contact tracing, it will still spread.”
Linn County Public Health had spent about $158,963 to hire 40 contact tracers through Dec. 23. Ending the program will help preserve agency resources, Bradley said.
There currently are more than 4,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Linn County, according to public health officials. As of this past week, the county’s seven-day case total was 1,186 — the highest since late November 2020, according to Gazette analysis of state coronavirus data.
The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has listed all 99 Iowa counties at the maximum level of community transmission of the virus. The state has remained in the “red zone” for several weeks.
As of Thursday, there were 64 COVID-19 patients in Linn County hospitals. Statewide, the number of people hospitalized for the virus was 747 as of Wednesday, according to IDPH.
The department also is taking its cue from the Iowa Department of Public Health, which had ended its routine contact tracing efforts for all individual COVID-19 cases statewide this past August, Bradley said.
State public health officials adjusted virus surveillance to follow its model for tracing influenza, which focuses case investigation on long-term care facility outbreaks, school outbreaks and infections among other vulnerable populations.
Bradley said the state did notify county health departments weeks ago when the omicron variant was detected in their county, but that communication recently has stopped.
Linn County Public Health, among other county public health departments in Iowa, has been conducting contact tracing since the virus first arrived in the state in March 2020. The county hired individuals to contact residents who tested positive to identify others who may have come in contact with them.
Though that effort has ended, the message from public health officials still is the same as it has been for the past year and a half, Bradley said. Linn County Public Health officials encourage everyone who has not been fully vaccinated to schedule an appointment, or to receive a booster shot if they qualify.
Individuals should also wear masks indoors and social distance when possible.
Coronavirus “is here, it’s not going anywhere any time soon,” Bradley said.
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