Twice-weekly reports of COVID-19 cases are no longer being provided by the county Health department simply because the agency is stretched too thin, spokesman Daniel buck said Wednesday.
“The information is available on the state dashboard,” Buck said. “That hasn’t changed. We had a discussion about priorities, and that was one thing we had to let go.”
The decision was made by director Kim Smith after a 10-day period when the department averaged 49 new cases per day. Each case must be reported to the state, contact tracing must be performed to inform others of possible exposure, and the patient must be monitored. The information is also shared with Emergency Services (in case of a 911 call at the person’s address) and the hospital.
At the end of 14-day quarantine period, patients are checked to see how their recovery or illness is progressing. That can’t always be done, Buck said, since so many new cases are reported every day.
With an 18 percent positive test rate in the county, Buck said, the Health Department is going full speed ahead every day.
The pandemic response, testing and now vaccinations require every worker at the office to take on multiple duties, Buck said. At the same time, the Health department is still providing all the other services that kept the office busy before COVID-19.
“We have a very busy maternal health and prenatal health program,” he said. “Our pediatric program is still open. We handle most of the STD cases in the county. Unless the governor or the state tell us we can stop offering those programs, they have to continue.”
The department has also had to maintain some flexibility in some areas, Buck said, especially with the start of the second phase of vaccinations set to begin Monday. People over the age of 75 will be allowed to get vaccinations beginning Monday.
“We originally weren’t going to make any appointments until Jan. 7,” Buck said. “The call volume, however, was overwhelming. We finally just started making appointments, even though we weren’t planning to until Thursday.
“We are booked up through next week,” he said Wednesday, “and we hadn’t even reached the official day to start.”
The Health Department is still sending out important messages via its Facebook page and the media, Buck said. Plans are in place to begin reporting the number of recoveries in the near future.
“We’re still here and working,” Buck said. “We just want to encourage people to get tested, get a vaccination when you can, and follow the three Ws – wash your hands, wear a mask and wait six feet apart. This virus isn’t going anywhere for a while.”