Lack of interest in quarantine may be a barrier in contact tracing efforts

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The State Department of Health (DOH) has released more results of its contact tracing efforts, including the percentage of cases being reached. One of the goals of the case investigation metrics is to help provide feedback for health officials on how they are doing with contact tracing.

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Investigation and contract tracing are key components to help stop the spread of the virus. In the new chart, the light blue bars are number of cases reported and the orange line shows what percent of those cases were reached in that week. Staffing has gone up and case counts came down since August, and officials saw an increase in percent of cases reached through October.

COURTESY: HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

But not everyone was reached and the next graph explains why. Nearly 580 cases were not reached in October. About 80% were because there was no phone number and people did not call back or answer.

COURTESY: HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

Acting State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble says one solution is working with the labs to get more complete contact information.

“Another big piece of this barrier section though is that there may be some fatigue on the part of cases that people may not be interested in isolation and quarantine and may not really want to talk to the Department about that,” said Dr. Kemble.

Dr. Kemble believes there are about 450 contact tracing staff statewide, and says based on the current case counts, they have excess capacity for contact tracing.

“We do anticipate scaling down staff and that’s not strictly an issue of loss of resources. It’s actually an assessment based on these performance measures of what we actually need,” she said.

However, Dr. Kemble says she is worried about what the holidays will bring. She mentioned incoming travelers have increased the state’s case count and there is higher risk for gatherings during the holidays. Despite needing to be prepared for another surge, the Department is still looking at reducing contact tracers.

“That’s why I say scalable systems are really critical. So we do have short term contract mechanisms to bring people back on board when they’re needed. But we also don’t want people filling seats without having, you know, work to do. So I think it’s an important balance to be able to flexibly adapt to the current needs.”

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