A surge in coronavirus cases in one Colorado county has left contact tracers there strapped for resources and unable to complete contact tracing for all new cases, according to local health officials.
Health officials in El Paso County warned this week that a “high volume” of cases may prevent tracers from being able to “complete contact tracing for all positive COVID-19 cases.” Contact tracing efforts in some instances will be left up to residents who test positive, per officials.
El Paso County Public Health has a team of 18 case investigators staffed through the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, and their work approximately 40 volunteer case investigators from the Medical Reserve Corps supplement their work, Michelle Hewitt, a public health information officer with the county public health department, told Fox News in an email.
That team can meet the requirement of 8.7 cases per 100,000 people a day, but the county also has an agreement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for case investigation and contact tracing surge capacity,” Hewitt said.
“However, this surge team maintained through CDPHE is utilized by counties throughout the state who are also experiencing a concurrent surge; therefore, the state capacity to deliver surge support is limited and diminishing,” Hewitt said referring to the state health department.
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El Paso County has 13.23% positivity rate, which is well above the 5% or lower rate typically recommended by health officials. Additionally, El Paso County is one of several Colorado communities that has been placed on the so-called “red zone” list for coronavirus cases, according to a report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, .
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“Contact tracing only works when individuals greatly limit the number of people they are around BEFORE they know they have COVID-19 and are willing to isolate and quarantine when they develop symptoms or are exposed to someone with COVID-19. The increased infections we are currently seeing are not due to a failure of contact tracing but rather the failure of individuals to take the necessary actions to prevent spread in the first place,” said Dr. Leon Kelly, the deputy medical director of county public health department, in a statement to Fox News.
Meanwhile, hospitals throughout Colorado are expected to have staffing shortages as the number COVID-19 cases increases.
COVID-19 cases in Colorado have surged in recent weeks. There has been about 22,000 new cases of the virus reported in the state last week. The rise in cases coincides with an estimated 24% of hospitals throughout Colorado expected to experience staffing shortages within the next week, according to a local report.
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Overall, COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations are surging throughout the country. Earlier this week, hospitalizations hit a record high in the United States. In some states, hospitals reached capacity limits. In rural areas and small hospitals, in particular, medical administrators are scrambling to find enough nursing help.
To date, Colorado has reported more than 147,000 cases of the novel virus, with some 2,468 lives lost to COVID-19, according to state health data.