Moffat Public Health to take over COVID-19 contact tracing
COVID-19 contact tracing in Moffat County will return to the local level with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment stepping back.
Moffat County Public Health will handle the contact tracing, including tracing within the Moffat County School District, MCPH director Kari Ladrow said at a meeting with the school district and the county commissioners on Tuesday.
“The model that we’re looking at is similar to what we were doing before,” Ladrow said. “(We’ll have) a lead contact tracer, or ‘lead,’ so that we’ll have one contact point for (school district nurse Myranda Lyons). Then we’re having another three positions total that we’ll be hiring for. But that way there’s that interface directly between (Lyons) and the lead and then filter it down to the contract tracers.”
Ideally, Ladrow said, those tracers will be ready to go at the beginning of the next school semester. With a potential spike of cases coming after holiday travel at the end of January, Ladrow said she hopes that they can get everyone in place by Jan. 15.
“There’s a long training that they need to do, and we have to go through the hiring process and all that,” she said. “But yes, the January 15-ish marker, I would say by then, we should be up and running. So again, just please bear with us while we train a new nurse and get our contract tracers on board. We are still here to serve the community, so we will just keep on with what we’re doing.”
School superintendent Scott Pankow said that working locally with contact tracers has traditionally worked better for the Moffat County School District — especially since CDPHE state tracers had to travel to and from Denver, which could cause a lag in reporting.
“I thought it worked much better with (local public health) last year with contact tracing information and timeliness and the way you worked with (Lyons),” Pankow said. “I’m not bashing CDPHE, but they’re three and a half hours away and it was harder because of that. So hopefully, we can get all right back into what we were doing before.”
As of Tuesday, six of the schools in the district were considered under an outbreak status. To get out of that status, however, a facility must not have had a new positive case within the past 28 days — which can be difficult in school settings that have a large population. School positivity rates and quarantined rates have been down significantly over the past four weeks when compared to the beginning of the school year.
“If everything goes through, then we should be able to close three of those outbreaks today,” Becky Copeland, Moffat County Public Health nurse, said Tuesday. “So Sandrock will be able to close today, as long as there’s no additional cases. Then, Craig Middle School should be able to close today, as long as there’s no additional cases, as well, and Ridgeview should be able to close today.”
In addition to the three contact tracers, MCPH is looking for a new public health nurse. Olivia Scheele, who had been previously working in the position, is moving to a new position, serving as director of infection prevention at Memorial Regional Health.
“This is very exciting for her, so she’s excited about the promotion,” Ladrow added. “So we are going to scale back a little bit on our vaccine clinics and what we can do until we can get that position rehired. The position has been advertised and is closing on Dec. 12, and we hope to have a good candidate that we can bring on board shortly after that. This is just to give you a heads up that we are losing, in a sense, but also sharing Olivia with the community more.”
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