Story at a glance
- The state of Kansas will no longer contact people who have recently been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
- Kansas health officials said contact tracing was a “futile” effort in which the public has become less interested in participating.
- Kansas has reported more than 40,000 new COVID-19 cases over the past week.
As the state moves away from its contact tracing program, residents in Kansas who test positive for COVID-19 will be responsible for notifying people close to them about their test results.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced on Tuesday that starting Feb. 1, the state will stop contact tracing for COVID-19, describing it as a “futile” effort in which the public has become less interested in participating, according to The Associated Press (AP).
Contact tracing allows state and local health departments to notify those who have been in close contact with a person who has recently tested positive for COVID-19, a method to monitor the spread of the virus and identify emerging cases before people inadvertently spread the disease further. According to John Hopkins, Kansas has seen a sharp rise in new COVID-19 infections this month, with about 42,000 new cases reported over the past week.
“The pandemic is far from over, but this step is a move toward managing COVID-19 as an endemic disease. The responsibility of protecting yourself and others belongs to all of us,” Janet Stanek, acting secretary of the Kansas health department, said, according to the AP.
An endemic state is when COVID-19 would not be completely eradicated, but people would have gained enough immunity to the virus through vaccinations and natural infection that there would be significantly less transmission.
Health experts cannot predict exactly when the coronavirus pandemic would transition to an endemic state, but a group of Harvard infectious diseases experts say it depends on several factors.
“It’s dependent on factors like the strength and duration of immune protection from vaccination and natural infection, our patterns of contact with one another that allow spread, and the transmissibility of the virus,” they said.
Kansas is not the only state moving away from contact tracing, as New York also announced last week it would no longer require local health departments to conduct contact tracing for positive COVID-19 cases.
“Everybody knows somebody who’s had it, themselves, close family, friends,” said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D). “It spreads throughout the community in a way that it doesn’t make sense to tie up the resources of the local public health department who’d rather be giving out vaccinations and testing.”
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