Health District no longer able to keep pace with contact tracing

(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)

The NE Tri County Health District announced today it would no longer be able to complete close contact follow ups, due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens County.

“The recent surge has outpaced the ability for Northeast Tri County Health District (NETCHD) staff to conduct contact tracing for close contacts,” the health district said in a press release. “At this time, NETCHD staff are focusing on contacting positive cases, but we are not able to complete close contact follow ups.”

In the past two weeks, there have been 216 cases of COVID-19 in the previous two weeks and the grand total since the pandemic began is 745. Stevens County has been hardest hit with 172 cases in the past two weeks and 493 since the pandemic began. The county’s population is about 45,000 people, meaning one in a thousand people in the county have contracted the virus.

“If you are a close contact of a positive case, it is unlikely that you will be contacted by NETCHD staff,” the press release said, adding that people who test positive should notify their own close contacts. A close contact is a person who has been within 6 feet, for 15 minutes or more, of someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

“If you have tested positive for COVID-19, please stay home, and participate in the follow up call from NETCHD staff,” the press release says. “We ask that you notify your close contacts and advise them to stay home for 14 days from the last time you were in contact with them. Your close contacts should be tested 5-7 days after they were last in contact or sooner if symptoms appear.”

So far in the United States, over 258,000 people have died from the virus and there have been 12 million recorded cases.