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Ottawa County can't keep up with contact tracing for "staggering" number of new COVID-19 cases

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Ottawa County says it can no longer trace all the contacts for people who test positive for COVID-19. There are just too many cases.

In the past two weeks alone, the Ottawa County Health Department says it’s identified a “staggering” number of new cases – 2,200 in all.

The county’s contact tracers had been reaching out to everyone who’d tested positive, and asking them to fill out online forms to start the process of tracing their contacts.

 “However even that system has been backlogged,” says Kristina Weighmink, public information officer for the health department. “So we did turn to the state last week and start transitioning our contacts over to them.”

Weighmink says her department now has reports there are backlogs in the state system because so many counties are overwhelmed with new cases.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said they’d look into the claims of delays in contact tracing, but had not gotten back to Michigan Radio by Friday evening.

Ottawa is one of many counties in Michigan struggling to handle an unprecedented number of new positive cases, and new hospitalizations.  

The Ottawa County Health Department is urging anyone who gets a positive test result to isolate themselves for a minimum of 10 days and inform all of their close contacts that they may have been infected.

“A close contact is someone who has been within six feet (about two arms’ length) of an infected person for at least 15 minutes in 24 hours including brief encounters (it does not need to be consecutive minutes) with or without a face covering,” the health department instructs on its website.

More information is available on the health department’s website

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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