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Department of Health Nov. 8-14 Update on COVID-19 Investigations, Contact Tracing, Monitoring Efforts: Pennsylvanians Urged to “Answer the Call” and Download the COVID App

11/23/2020

Harrisburg, PA - The Department of Health today shared its weekly update on Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing data and encouraged Pennsylvanians to download the COVID Alert PA app to aid in contact tracing efforts.

“Pennsylvania continues to see more cases rise each day. With counts above 5,000, 6,000, and now over 7,000 cases reported per day, we will need to prioritize case investigations to prevent outbreaks,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “It is important for Pennsylvanians to be united and do their part to prevent the spread in their communities. Please continue to wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing, wear a mask, avoid gatherings, and download the COVID Alert PA app on your phone to be notified if you came into contact with someone who later tested positive.”

Contact tracing is the process of identifying, notifying, and monitoring anyone who came in close contact with an individual who has COVID-19 while that individual was infectious. The contact tracing process is not possible without a case investigation by a public health professional. Case investigators make the initial call to those with positive COVID-19 test results spending 30 to 60 minutes asking questions to ensure all potential close contacts are identified.

Between Sunday, November 8 and Saturday, November 14, there were 34,719 COVID-19 cases statewide and 23 percent of all cases had a case investigation started within 24 hours of receiving the positive report. Public health professionals will continue calling to complete the case investigation after the 24-hour period. An additional 7 percent of all cases had a case investigation started within 48 hours. There were 8,332 people, or 24 percent of cases, in this reported week that were successfully contacted by a public health professional statewide. Cases investigations are being prioritized to address those cases that present the highest likelihood of leading to an outbreak.

After the initial case investigation is complete, contact tracing begins. Within the same time period of November 8 to November 14, there were 1,633 contact tracing staff working with local and county health entities, partner organizations and the Regional Response Health Collaboration Program within the Department of Human Services as well as volunteers from Co-County Wellness in Berks County and Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. These staff monitored 11,550 contacts who were identified during the case investigations. That is an increase of 3,155 contacts compared to last week.

Currently, all of the allotted 1,000 people have been hired through a partnership with Insight Global. Some of these contact tracers have been promoted to perform case investigations to meet the immediate needs of increased caseloads. There are 40 supervisors, 12 regional field managers and coordinators, and 10 care coordinators who will help to refer Pennsylvanians to services during quarantine across the commonwealth.

Since the implementation of the Contact Tracing Management System in early October through November 14 in those areas of the state where Pennsylvania Department of Health is responsible for contact tracing, there have been:

  • 34,000 contacts have been processed for areas where PA DOH has jurisdiction;
  • 25,500 people, or 75 percent of the total contacts identified, have been effectively reached to communicate their quarantine status and offer ongoing symptom monitoring;
  • 6,500 people, or about 19 percent of the total contacts, were not reached; and
  • 1,800 were still in the process of being contacted.

On September 22, the department launched COVID Alert PA, a free mobile app that uses Bluetooth technology to let a person know that they have been exposed to COVID-19 without compromising the identity or location of either the person using the app, or of the person to whom they may have been exposed. There have been over 555,000 downloads thus far, and on average 42,000 individuals are logging their symptoms on a daily basis

In addition to the traditional case investigations and contact tracing process, there have been 294 cases that confirmed their positivity and uploaded their random ID’s through the app, which generated exposure alerts to those phones, who have the app and were in close contact (six feet for 15 minutes or more). These prompted 116 exposure alerts to be sent out to other app users to notify them of their exposure. Of those who receives the alerts, 20 individuals requested a call back for further assistance by a trained contact tracer.

As the contact tracing program expands, the Department of Health continues to work in partnership with over 150 organizations, in addition to the county and municipal health departments, through regional partnerships to help gather and answer questions, identify problems and find solutions to improve contact tracing efforts within the region. Each regional partnership has met at least once, and includes public health staff, health providers, academic institutions, community organizations, and other stakeholders interested in helping to coordinate and engage around contact tracing efforts.

Organizations and entities interested in partnering in these efforts should reach out to RA-DHCONTACTTRACING@pa.gov.

You can find more information on the state’s contact tracing efforts at the Department of Health’s website here.

Pennsylvanians are reminded that mask-wearing is required when visiting businesses or in any setting outside the home where social distancing is difficult. Remember: My mask protects you; your mask protects me.

The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.
  • Download the COVID Alert PA app and make your phone part of the fight. The free app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store by searching for “covid alert pa”.

Updated Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Photos, Graphics

MEDIA CONTACT: Nate Wardle - ra-dhpressoffice@pa.gov

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