As Utah continues to see a Thanksgiving surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, local health departments are facing challenges with keeping up with contact tracing efforts.
During a Wasatch County Council meeting earlier this month, health department director, Randall Probst, said contact tracing has become “almost impossible” with the rise in cases.
The State Department of Health is launching a new automated system Friday to help with contact tracing efforts. State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn said departments will be able to more efficiently contact patients and people they have been in contact with.
"So some people who test positive for COVID-19 will receive a text instead of a phone call from public health contact tracers," Dunn said. "The text will include a link to a secure form, where the person who tested positive can provide information related to the case investigation and contact tracing electronically."
The contact tracing is already part of the state’s existing surveillance system. Dunn said investigators will begin to include the automated systems into their workflow before it’s more broadly rolled out.
"So the hope is that it's speeding up the initial case investigation process," she said. "Again, allowing public health contact tracers to reach out to the close contacts either by phone or by text."
Jonelle Fitzgerald with Wasatch County Department of Health said the health department will continue to do their best to reach out directly to people who test positive for COVID-19. But she said they’re glad to have the automated system for when they don't have enough manpower to directly reach out.