‘People need to take this seriously’: Contact tracers overwhelmed as COVID-19 cases spike across the metro

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With cases on the rise, and hospitals feeling the pressure, they are not alone. Health departments are dealing with it too. Contact tracers across the metro are frantically trying to find the source of outbreaks.

“We’ve got to get these numbers down. People need to take this seriously,” Dr. Rex Archer, director of the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department said.

There are hundreds of new COVID-19 cases each day, and each county is testing the limits of their employees.

“When those cases jumped from 100 a day, to 200 a day, to now close to 300 cases a day , it’s just too much for our current capacity to keep up with,” Elizabeth Holzschuh the director of epidemiology at thee Johnson County Health Department said.

Contact tracers are trying to find the source of COVID-19 outbreaks, but departments say it’s becoming almost impossible.

“We need the contact tracing then to be able to put the fires out so that it doesn’t blow up again, but putting it out now is like trying to put out a house fire with a squirt bottle,” Archer said.

In Kansas City they are looking at 20-somethings as the cause, and in Johnson County they are paying special attention to cases of kids 10 to 18 years old.

“These kids are probably more in the community. They’re probably playing recreational sports leagues, part time jobs, and they’re having far more social activities, and we know this increases the risk for our schools,” Holzschuh said.

Large group gatherings, indoor dining, and bars are being looked at when trying to find a source.

“We’re trying to prioritize where we think we’re seeing an outbreak, because sometimes around those outbreaks we have what you call a super spreader event, where someone is spreading it a lot more than normal, and you really have to try to slow that down,” Archer said.

Archer said they are also concerned about funding. Through the CARES Act they are paying for some of their tracers. That funding may dry up at the end of the year.

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