In the past month, COVID-19 case numbers in Cowlitz County have increased substantially. Over the weekend, Cowlitz County announced 86 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The dramatic surge in cases has strained Cowlitz County Health & Human Service’s (CCHHS) ability to quickly reach people who have tested positive for COVID-19. That has impacted CCHHS ability to identify and notify close contacts in a timely manner, which reduces the effectiveness of the contact tracing process.
As a result, Cowlitz County Health & Human Service, similar to many other counties, is modifying its COVID-19 response. CCHHS is shifting staff resources to prioritize interviewing cases and identifying priority locations where exposures may have occurred. CCHHS will no longer identify, notify and monitor individual close contacts of confirmed cases.
“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, county health officer.
CCHHS will continue to interview everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to determine whether there are any potential exposures at priority locations, which include long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, food processing facilities, and schools.
Cases will be provided with instructions on how to isolate until they are no longer contagious. Through case interviews, CCHHS will identify priority locations where someone who tested positive may have been while contagious. If an exposure occurred at a priority location, CCHHS will work with the facility to identify close contacts and provide guidance on quarantine and testing.
Cases will also be provided with a toolkit including a webpage with a toolkit for notifying 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.”
Guidance for cases, close contacts
Everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be instructed to isolate at home until they are no longer contagious. Those who test positive and have symptoms of COVID-19 can end isolation when:
- they’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medicine AND
- other symptoms are improving AND
- at least 10 days have passed since symptoms began.
Those who test positive but do not have symptoms can end isolation when at least 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive test.
Cases will be asked to notify their close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. Cases will need to notify anyone they were in close contact with from the two days before their symptoms began until they started isolation. Close contacts include everyone who:
- was within 6 feet of the sick person for more than 15 minutes
- was near the sick person’s coughs or sneezes
- lives in the same home as the sick person
- cared for the sick person
Close contacts should quarantine at home for 14 days from the last day they were in close contact with the sick person. They should not go to work, school, child care or church, or participate in other social or community activities during quarantine.
Additional guidance and resources are available on the CCHHS COVID-19 webpages.
Ralph Herrera, PIO
360-442-7082 or 360-414-5599
Release #: 20-067