VDH Refocuses COVID Tracing Efforts

FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2021, file photo, people wait in line at a 24-hour, walk-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic hosted by the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium at Temple University's Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. At least for now, U.S. health authorities say after being vaccinated, people should follow the same rules as everybody else about wearing a mask, keeping a 6-foot distance and avoiding crowds even after they’ve gotten their second vaccine dose. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

By Amie Knowles
February 2, 2022

The change occurred in response to the sheer number of Omicron variant cases, which the health department noted is “straining Virginia’s health care system.”

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced on Jan. 25 that it will no longer investigate every case of COVID-19 across the commonwealth. 

If you had COVID earlier in the pandemic, chances are you received a phone call from a contact tracer. That person worked diligently to discover where and from whom you might’ve contracted the coronavirus. They also mapped out a list of individuals who could’ve been exposed to COVID-19 during the course of your illness. 

Generally “close contacts” are family members living in the same household or coworkers in close proximity to one another, but could be anyone who was less than 6 feet away from a person with COVID for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. If tracers identified a close contact, that person could go into quarantine whether they presented symptoms of the illness or not. From September 2020 to present in Virginia, there were over 750,000 case investigations, 400,000 close contacts notified, and more than 6,500 outbreaks. 

Now, single-case contact tracing will become a thing of the past. Instead, the VDH will switch its focus to tracing outbreaks and cases in high-risk settings like long-term care facilities, congregate settings, and healthcare settings. Tracers will also follow-up with individuals most at risk for negative health effects from COVID-19.

“COVID-19 continues to spread across the Commonwealth in high volumes, and Virginians should act quickly when illness is suspected,” said Dr. Colin Greene, acting State Health Commissioner. “Please get tested, stay home when you are infectious, and notify your contacts.”

Cindy Clayton, a public information officer with the VDH, said the health department is also evaluating current COVID dashboards and expects to make some changes in the future to better align with the pandemic becoming an endemic.
The VDH website provides guidance on how an infected individual can best notify close contacts of a potential exposure, as well as the current quarantine and safety guidelines. Additionally, COVIDWISE is a good resource for those who wish to remain anonymous, but still notify others who may have been exposed.

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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