The South Central Public Health District—with three other Idaho public health districts—is warning that surges in coronavirus cases in the last month have created backlogs and delays for their disease investigation teams, making it impossible to contact all new reported cases or those individuals’ close contacts.
Disease investigation “remains a top priority for public health,” a news release from the health districts states, but case surges across the state—tripling daily averages in some districts—have created a workload that their staffs cannot adequately manage.
“We are committed to doing our part in public health,” said Katherine Hoyer, public information officer for the Panhandle Health District, in northern Idaho. “But the reality we are facing is that levels of community transmission are making the critical work of investigation and contact tracing diluted. Simply put, we need the cooperation of our community members to do all they can to reduce their risk and protect themselves, their loved ones and fellow community members.”
With the latest surge in cases, some health districts have been forced to prioritize investigative calls by age, to ensure they are reaching the people most at risk for severe symptoms and those most likely to spread the disease, the news release states. Because of the backlogs, public health districts report that a growing number of people are not getting a call from their offices.
In the South Central Public Health District—which serves eight Idaho counties, including Blaine—more than three times the number of cases were reported in October than in any other month since the pandemic started.
“Investigators are clearing about 300 cases a week, but receiving well over a thousand,” the news release states. “Since Monday, Nov. 2, SCPHD has received more than 200 cases reported each day.”
Melody Bowyer, director of the South Central Public Health District, asked Idahoans to follow recommended mitigation measures.
“Our actions have consequences,” she said. “We need to focus on our common goals: keep people healthy, keep businesses and schools open, and keep our hospitals running. To do that, we need to work together to bring our cases down.”
The districts are urging anyone who is awaiting a test result or who receives a positive test result to take their own proactive measures to protect themselves and those around them.
“We have to rely on everyone we don’t speak with to act responsibly on their own. That means isolating while waiting for test results and, if positive, warning all of their close contacts that they need to quarantine right away,” said Doug Doney, acting director of the Southwest Public Health District.
Health officials stated that anyone awaiting a test result should:
● Stay home and monitor their health. They should stay away from others in their household whenever possible and should watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms of COVID-19. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.
● Identify the people they have recently been in contact with.
● Answer a phone call from the health department if contacted.
● Follow CDC guidelines, found online here.
If someone tests positive, they should:
● Stay home, except to get medical care. They should not visit public places.
● Get rest and stay hydrated.
● Stay in touch with their doctor and seek care if they have any emergency warning signs.
● Contact those with whom they have had close contact to let them know they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
● Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis.
● The CDC offers clear guidelines for those who test positive. Click here for details.