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COVID-19 Spike Forces Health Officials In Jackson County To Restructure Workflow

National Insitutes of Health
via Flickr

Many counties in Oregon are becoming overwhelmed with the surge of COVID-19 cases. To free up resources, Jackson County Public Health is asking those who test positive to take some next steps into their own hands.

Jackson County public health officials are asking people who test positive to inform all of their close contacts right away. At the start of the pandemic, contact tracers from the county would immediately identify and inform people who came in contact with the infected person.

Nichole Brickey manages the contact tracers in Jackson County, and she says that because timing is so important, it’s best to leave some responsibility up to the public.

“There’s such a backlog of people that tested positive that by the time that the investigation was done and we found out who the contacts were, we called a lot of people and the contacts were like, ‘Well, I’ve already tested, and I’m positive,’” says Brickey.

In an effort to keep up with case investigations and contact tracing, health officials have stopped monitoring people for serious symptoms after they receive a positive test result.

Brickey says that as the pandemic grows, the county has to put its limited resources where they can do the most good. Now, staff have more time to educate people who test positive on how to best care for themselves, as well as trace down anyone they’ve come in contact with.

“It’s definitely more beneficial to notify people so that people can be aware and take care of themselves than I think it is for us to just, you know, play mother over somebody and monitor them every day," says Brickey.

The public health office says that not everyone who is positive will get a call from a public health worker. They’ll first focus on those most at-risk of serious illness or spreading it to others.

If you do test positive, it may take around a week for a case investigator to reach out to you -- if they call at all.