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Department of Health Adjusts Supports to Fulfill Current Needs to Ensure Long-Term Case Investigations, Contact Tracing Efforts

12/11/2020

Harrisburg, PA - The Department of Health today announced a staffing adjustment to support long-term case investigation and contact tracing efforts by promoting 100 contact tracers to case investigator staff while temporarily scaling back 500 contact tracers’ hours by 20 percent through the existing staffing contract with Insight Global.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to assess our needs to best support case investigations and contact tracing efforts and ensure staff have sufficient workloads. We are grateful for this ongoing partnership with Insight Global that nearly tripled the existing staff since July,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Now, as Pennsylvania continues to report thousands of residents diagnosed with COVID-19 each day, we need to promote some tracers to case investigators and also scale back our current tracing hours to ensure we will have funding available for a longer period to effectively continue monitoring the close contacts identified in case investigations.”

There are 1,631 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. Currently, 1,090 people have been hired through Insight Global. Effective Monday, December 14, 500 tracing staff will have shortened hours, resulting in a work week of 32 hours.

Across the commonwealth, there are now 230 case investigators who reach out to incoming cases to find out where they went and who they came in contact with while infectious. As our COVID-19 numbers climb past 12,000 cases reported in a day, we need to prioritize these cases. Between November 22 and 28, there were 4,198 people, or nine percent, of 46,653 cases in this reported week that were successfully contacted by a public health professional statewide. Then, contact tracers follow up and successfully monitor between 5,000 - 10,000 close contacts collected during the case investigation on average each week.

“Each and every one of these tracers play a vital part in supporting the fight against COVID-19 here in Pennsylvania, Dr. Levine said. “We are grateful to every tracer who joined this fight and continues to advocate for Pennsylvania to stay safe while COVID-19 remains a threat in our communities. We need Pennsylvanians to answer the call, this is how we gather close contacts through case investigations to contact trace. While we continue to reach out to these prioritized cases, we are creating digital supports like a case investigation survey and encouraging residents to download the COVID Alert PA app.”

In addition to the traditional form of contact tracing, 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 more than 685,000 downloads thus far.

There have been 409 cases that confirmed their positivity and uploaded their random ID’s through the app. These uploads generated 209 exposure alerts to persons who have downloaded the app on their phones and who were in close contact (six feet for 15 minutes or more) to the case. Of those who received the alerts, 34 individuals requested a call back for further assistance from a trained contact tracer.

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

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

· Daily COVID-19 Report

· Press releases regarding coronavirus

· Latest information on the coronavirus

· Photos of the state’s lab in Exton (for download and use)

· Coronavirus and preparedness graphics (located at the bottom of the page)

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

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