Contact tracing became an issue as Grant County saw its second positive COVID-19 case since March this month.
County Health Administrator Kimberly Lindsay said the person who recently tested positive reached out to everyone they were in contact with going back to July 1, letting them know they may have been exposed — but, following state guidelines, the health department only performed contact tracing starting at 48 hours before the first symptoms, which subjected the department to community-wide scrutiny.
Lindsay said the health department reaches out to anyone who has been in close contact — within 6 feet for 15 minutes — with someone infected with COVID-19, starting at 48 hours before the person begins to experience symptoms, or 48 hours before receiving the test for people who do not experience symptoms. The department informs those people they have been exposed and encourages them to quarantine themselves to prevent spreading the disease any further.
Lindsay said going back 48 hours is following the state’s guidelines.
“The best science says that the period of transmission is in these 48 hours — that it’s a waste of time, resources, money and everything if you go back farther,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay said the virus is “busy spreading” roughly 48 hours before the first symptom.
Lindsay said people must keep in mind that researchers are continuing to learn more about COVID-19.
“This virus has been with us in the world, our world, for seven months, eight months if we go back to the beginning of December,” she said. “And something like the flu has been with us for over 100 years, and we know more about the flu today than we do about this virus.”
Oregon’s Medical Director Dean Sidelinger said Friday that people are most contagious within two days of developing symptoms.
“For individuals with symptoms, we typically think that they are contagious the two days before they develop symptoms,” Sidelinger said. “For individuals who don’t have symptoms, we can’t base it on a symptom date; we base it on the date they received the test and go back two days from that date to identify people who may have been potentially exposed.”
Lindsay said the health department has 24 hours to contact a person who tests positive.
“In my mind, we want to be reaching out to the person within the first hour or two,” she said. “And granted, we only have two cases, but we have done exactly that.”