The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) recently said it is rapidly training personnel to support COVID-19 case investigations and contact tracing as the state moves toward phase 2 of reopening the economy.
Washington DOH said as of May 19th, 723 National Guard personnel and 769 Department of Licensing personnel had been trained to help local health jurisdictions with the work as needed. This is double the amount of potential contract tracers announced by Governor Inslee in a May 12th press conference.
These personnel will supplement roughly 630 local and state public health professionals already lined up to do the work. The state is also reviewing applications from volunteers and finalizing the plan to appropriately screen and train them if needed in the coming months.
The state says case investigations and contract tracing are key public health strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as Washington continues to reopen.
Washington is currently in phase 1 of reopening. The earliest phase 2 could start is June 1st.
The increase in people able to do virus tracing work supports two public health goals: contact everyone with a positive test result for COVID-19 within 24 hours to determine their close contacts; and contact all close contacts within 48 hours. According to DOH, public participation is voluntary, though.
On May 22nd, Gov Inslee sent a request to the Trump administration for an extension of authority and additional funding for Washington National Guard employment in support of COVID-19 pandemic emergency response operations through July 31, 2020.
WA DOH said in recent weeks it has strengthened and standardized its case investigation and contact tracing protocols. It is also documenting available resources potentially needed to support exposed people while they quarantine or they sick while they isolate.
“Case investigations and contact tracing are key pieces of the effort to keep Washington residents safe,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “Both have been critical tools to suppress the virus in other parts of the world.”