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Mike Anderson, KSL TV

All hands on deck for contact tracing at Utah health departments

By Mike Anderson, KSL TV | Posted - Jun. 26, 2020 at 10:24 a.m.

OGDEN — As the numbers continue to rise for COVID-19, health departments along the Wasatch Front were getting stretched thin finding enough workers to reduce the spread of the virus through contact tracing.

The job needs urgent attention because workers need to reach each person potentially exposed to the virus within two days.

Health department workers are pushing aside many of their usual responsibilities to switch over to contact tracing.

“On average, you’re probably going to spend two-to-four hours working with a case,” said communicable disease nurse Amy Carter.

Workers from all over the office, like accountants, were being used to get this detailed work done.

“Our numbers have gone up pretty steadily and pretty sharp increases over the last week or two,” Carter said.

Contact tracing calls are made behind closed doors due to privacy laws. People who get the calls were being asked to quarantine for two weeks. Carter said it’s what they have to do to reduce the spread.

“We have been working pretty hard, pretty much seven days a week. It feels like around the clock, you know, for several months now,” she said.

Health workers were just as busy doing the same work in Salt Lake County.

“It’s taken over everything. You know, for me, I eat, sleep, drink, dream you know,” said public health nurse Lee Cherie Booth.

She said they are making some changes to keep up with the current spike in cases.

“We were going to try to put some of the responsibility on to the person that is positive for COVID. We call it the index case and have them reach out to their social contacts,” Booth said.

Workers can spend two to four hours working on a contact tracing case, communicable disease nurse Amy Carter says on Thursday, June 25, 2020. (Photo: Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

They made that adjustment just this week, which allowed investigators to focus on some of the more difficult cases.

Booth said most people are willing to do what they need to do.

“There’s so much of this going on that we need to have everyone’s help involved,” Booth said.

Weber-Morgan and Salt Lake were among the many health departments hiring temporary workers to help with the contact tracing. That will allow some of their employees to get back to their usual responsibilities.

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