People who test positive for COVID in Jefferson County being asked to do their own contact tracing to help health department manage workload

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Wis. — The Jefferson County Department of Health Director Gail Scott said residents are now being asked to do their own contact tracing if they test positive for COVID-19.

Scott said when the first cases started to appear in Jefferson County, she saw an average of five cases per day.

“It got to the point where we had an average of 25 cases per day,” Scott said. “With an increase of 79% over the last two weeks, it just got to the point where the cases were coming in way too fast.”

Scott said residents were asked to do their own contact tracing starting last Friday. Scott said not enough time has passed to know if this new effort is working or if people are cooperating but she’s hopeful that people will jump on board.

“The reason was not that we didn’t want to do it or that we were trying to make other people do our job, but the reason was we needed help. We just wanted to be honest that we needed that help,” Scott said.

Jefferson County’s Department of Health is not alone in experiencing an overwhelming workload with the increase in COVID cases. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, “the surge in cases and demands in their work has prompted the state to continue adding staff to provide overflow or surge support for them. Currently, the state has more than 350 staff involved in the efforts to notify contacts and trace disease investigations and DHS is in the midst of recruiting and training an additional 100 contact tracers. While there are national reports suggesting that many states are behind in staffing for this week, we remain committed to responding to the changing needs in a responsible manner – that includes attending to the hiring and training of people who can complete this work effectively.”

Scott said there have been around 100 outbreaks of COVID in Jefferson County since the beginning of the pandemic, totaling around 1,400 cases.

Scott said right now there are about 15 people on staff helping with contact tracing efforts and the department will soon be hiring more. Scott said it takes about one month to hire and fully train a contact tracer.

Until they have enough staff to manage the increasing workload, Scott hopes “that within the next few days we can be back where we are able to get to people quicker.”