PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Contact tracing is one of the critical elements to safely reopening the state, according to health officials. It’s also a huge undertaking. Washington County Public Health officials discussed how they need more people on their team in order to properly execute contact tracing.
Local leaders and public health officials agree that Oregonians have saved lives by staying home. And while that’s something to be proud of, officials warn it will be a while before life is back to normal.
“I want to be clear that we will not be able to open Oregon quickly or in one fell swoop,” said Governor Kate Brown in a previous press conference. “This process will happen much more slowly than any of us would like.”
According to Brown, at the top of the list of priorities is a strategy to test, trace, and isolate the virus. Last week, Governor Kate Brown outlined plans for contact tracing. It’s a tedious process, but a key one if the state wants to relax stay-home measures without a drastic uptick in coronavirus cases.
“We ask them information about how long they’ve been sick, what symptoms they’ve had, and collect information on who they’ve been around, where they’ve been,” said Dr. Christina Baumann, Deputy Public Health Officer for Washington County. Her team is working on getting more funding for contact tracing.
“We’re going to need up to 180 individuals on our team to continue contact tracing over the next six months,” said Tricia Mortell, Public Health Division Manager of Washington County. She warned that as the state opens, a positive COVID-19 would bring life to a halt once again for an entire household.
“We’ll need to move back to isolating cases and asking for voluntary quarantine of whole households,” said Mortell.
Mortell pointed out the setbacks for a family if an entire household faces quarantine and said it’s one of the reasons they are more than quadrupling staff. That quarantine would be voluntary, but would be a signed agreement between the household and the county.
County public health officials want money to hire people who could help families in quaratine and provide resources for them.