The Arkansas Department of Health is ending COVID-19 contact tracing at the end of the day Jan. 17, its communications director said Wednesday (Jan. 5).
Meg Mirivel said the department’s leadership made the decision a couple of weeks ago for several reasons. Federal funding for the program is coming to an end, response rates were somewhere below 50%, and its vendors – the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care and GDIT – were unable to keep up with the heavy caseload.
The department has been contacting newly infected individuals to find out where and with whom they had been. Then those other people could be contacted with information about quarantining and isolation guidelines. But many of those infected individuals didn’t answer the phone or declined to answer questions.
Mirivel said the department will continue to do initial school-age case investigation where families of new cases are contacted to collect and share information, but contact tracing won’t follow.
Mirivel encouraged Arkansans to familiarize themselves with the CDC’s new guidelines, which call for individuals to quarantine if they are a close contact or to isolate if asymptomatic or mildly ill for five days and mask an additional five days. If they test positive, they need to inform those people with whom they had close contact, she said.
Mirivel said the department uses in-house contact tracing for other diseases, such as sexually transmitted diseases, and those will continue.