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Idaho's rising COVID-19 cases complicates contact tracing efforts

In addition to contact tracing, personal responsibility, such as social distancing and hand washing, need to be implemented to slow the spread of the virus.

BOISE, Idaho — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Idaho, contact tracing is becoming even more important in slowing the spread. Along with contact tracing, however, comes personal responsibility, according to Brandon Atkins with Central District Health (CDH).

“With the case rates as high as they are in our community right now, it's really quite a burden for our epidemiology team to keep up. They continue to contact trace, but they really have to prioritize the highest risk populations,” Atkins said. “People should know within our community if they have tested positive for the disease, they have COVID-19, they've been infected with coronavirus, that they need to be isolating and quarantining, and they need to be contacting the people they could have put at risk.”

Earlier this month, four public health districts in Idaho sent out a news release stating case surges have created backlogs and delays for their disease investigation teams. Despite teams working diligently, it's impossible for the health teams to contact all newly reported cases, according to the news release.

“The coronavirus can be anywhere and everywhere, and people need to continue to utilize the strategies that have been provided for them, the social distancing, face coverings, and appropriate hygiene," Atkins said. "They also need to work together as a community to let others know if someone does test positive the indication is you need to quarantine and you need to be at home."

In a statement, Southwest District Health (SWDH) Program Manager Ricky Bowman said in part: "We are unable to follow-up with each individual through contact tracing efforts due to the sheer volume of cases and the limited bandwidth of our staff. We do not see a slowdown in case rates."

With no slowdown in sight, Atkins said the community needs to step it up, and that starts with a change.

“We have to change the behaviors, we can't continue to say it doesn't matter," Atkins said. "We're a small population. If that's the mentality that people continue we can expect to see more and more people getting this illness and unfortunately, we're going to see more and more people die unnecessarily in most cases from this illness."

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