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As Idaho coronavirus cases climb, contact tracing remains an important tool

Although the workload of contact tracing has increased in recent months, health districts continue to connect the dots of possible COVID-19 exposure.

BOISE, Idaho — Early in the coronavirus pandemic, health districts tried to connect the dots of who has COVID-19 through contact tracing, so they can notify people who are unaware of exposure.

As hundreds and hundreds of more people have tested positive over the last few months, is contact tracing still accomplishing anything, specifically in hard-hit areas like Ada County?

"While individuals don't necessarily like the idea of some of that information given, it is important to reduce the risk of transmission," Brandon Atkins with Central District Health said.

Atkins says although they continue to see hundreds of new COVID-19 cases a week, contact tracing strategies mostly stay the same.

READ MORE: What is contact tracing, and how does it work with COVID-19?

"It really doesn't change a whole lot, what does has to change is the number of people that we have executing the contact tracing ability. So they are continuing to bring in new employees all the time to help with the contact tracing," Atkins said.

With the number of people that need to be contact traced much higher than before, Atkins says keeping up with that isn't the biggest challenge.

"The bigger issue we are dealing with is lag in reporting as far as the labs go. So they are seeing it sometimes coming in as late as six and seven days so that person has already gone in and had their swab taken and had their symptoms two, three, four, five days and then they have another week before we are getting the labs reported to us. That ends up being one of the bigger challenges," said Atkins.

Although that time frame isn't ideal, it is still within a time frame that is helpful to CDH and the community in terms of seeing a picture of community spread.

RELATED: As Idaho COVID cases rise, so does demand for tests

"Absolutely, we are seeing it more and more prevalent throughout the communities, individuals that have no idea what their exposure risk was," said Atkins.

In terms of getting results back, there is a time frame when effective contact tracing limits could really be pushed.

"If we were reaching a two-week mark where we were taking that long to get them back, it would be very, very counterproductive for us," said Atkins.

Another issue they continue to see, people not helping them with responses. CDH understands some feel contact tracing may seem too drastic, but it really is helpful to the community.

"It really is imperative that we get those phone calls returned and that people are accepting those phone calls and being cooperative," Atkins said. "We also know by gathering that information we are able to see some patterns that are happening within communities."

So if you get a call from CDH, they ask that you please pick up and be helpful. Along with other methods, your call could make a difference for someone else.

"They are all imperative portions of helping to produce public health messaging that will help us reduce risks," said Atkins.

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