All hands on deck for COVID contact tracing

WWNY All hands on deck for COVID contact tracing

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - As case numbers climb, the job of tracking COVID spread gets larger and larger. It’s called contact tracing. For some counties, it’s all hands on deck.

In St. Lawrence County, tracking potential COVID cases is a job guaranteed to go into extra hours.

“We start at 8 and sometimes we don’t get to go home until 9,” said Dana McGuire, Public Health director.

And it’s not just county health workers making contact tracing calls. They’ve been getting help from the state and other county departments.

And if you were wondering, the work isn’t easy.

“It’s stressful because some people don’t really want to go through the process. Some people are really happy for the education and the call and sometimes we just have a really hard time even making contact with that person,” said McGuire.

But contact tracing is vital as COVID cases increase. In St. Lawrence County, the first two weeks of November saw more cases than the entire month of April.

“I think we’ve grown as a staff but I think we are all feeling tired and kind of just wondering when we’re going to see the light and kind of see the numbers go back down again,” said McGuire.

In Jefferson County, Public health says it increased its contact tracing manpower from 4 people to more than a dozen.

“It’s not full-time all the time, but it’s that many people helping so we can keep up,” said Jefferson County Public Health Planner Stephen Jennings.

One way to help tracers keep up?

“Answer the phone make sure your voice mail is activated and if you’re sick, please stay home,” said Jennings.

Lewis County Manager Ryan Piche says nearly all of the county’s 27 departments are working with public health to contact trace.

“It really doesn’t matter what your regular day to day job description is right now. We are all working on pandemic issues and that’s kind of how it should be,” he said.

Piche says the county has adopted the philosophy: many hands make light work.

“Obviously public health has the expertise. They are going to do a majority of the heavy lifting but the more hands we can bring in to help them with all of that work is going to be better,” he said.

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