Monday, September 20, 2021
Sept. 20, 2021

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Clark County adds 277 new COVID-19 cases in one day, changes tracing practices

County will no longer monitor contacts of confirmed cases

By , Columbian Metro Editor

Clark County reported 277 new COVID-19 cases — the most ever in a single day — and two new deaths Tuesday.

The new cases bring the county’s total to 587 new cases since Friday. That is more cases than had been reported in any week until last week. It works out to an average of nearly 147 new cases a day and pushes the county’s total COVID-19 cases to 6,747 to date.

Surging caseloads have prompted Clark County Public Health to change how it performs contact tracing, giving up the practice of identifying, notifying and monitoring individual close contacts of confirmed cases in favor of interviewing confirmed cases to identify priority locations where exposures may have occurred.

“We believe these changes will allow us to more quickly interview cases, ensure they are isolated while contagious, and identify priority locations that may need our help to prevent or mitigate an outbreak,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Public Health director and county health officer.

The two new deaths reported Tuesday are women age 80 or older with underlying health conditions, according to Clark County Public Health. Three people have died from COVID-19 this week, and 82 have died since the pandemic began in March.

The rate of new cases per 100,000 population over two weeks rose from 171.55 last week to 254.45 as of Tuesday.

The number of active cases — people in their isolation period — fell slightly to 469.

Hospitalizations rose, with 54 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 10 hospitalized awaiting test results as of Tuesday. Hospitals reported that 76.6 percent of the county’s ICU beds are occupied, and 76.3 percent of all licensed care beds are occupied.

COVID-19 case numbers in Clark County have increased 50 percent in the last month, with more than 2,000 new cases reported in four weeks, straining Public Health’s ability to quickly reach people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and identify and notify close contacts in a timely manner.

“Public Health will continue to interview everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to determine whether there are any potential exposures at priority locations, which include schools, long-term care facilities, the jail and food processing facilities,” Public Health said in an announcement Tuesday.

Cases will be provided with instructions on how to isolate until they are no longer contagious and will receive daily text messages during their isolation period through a secure system called Sara Alert, according to the announcement.

Through case interviews, the announcement said, Public Health will identify priority locations where someone who tested positive may have been while contagious. If an exposure occurred at a priority location, the agency will work with the facility to identify close contacts and provide guidance on quarantine and testing.

Cases will also be provided a handout about quarantine and will be asked to notify their close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

“In many instances, cases are already notifying their close contacts and doing so more quickly than we’re able to,” Melnick said. “With the help of the community, we can continue to identify and notify close contacts who need to quarantine.”