© 2022 KUNR
An illustrated mountainscape with trees and a broadcast tower.
Serving Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Nevada Contact Tracers Can’t Keep Up, Disease Investigation Questions Get Cut

A digital illustration looking down on about 40 people. Each person is standing on a gray circle and each circle is connected to another circle by a gray line.
Adobe Stock

Nevada officials reported a little over 3,000 COVID-19 cases Wednesday. As Nevada sees a surge in COVID-19 cases, contact tracers are struggling to keep up. The state is instructing disease investigators to curtail some of their questions and prioritize who to talk to.

Nevada has issued guidance for local health districts to start conducting abbreviated disease investigations. Julia Peek, with the Nevada Health and Human Services Department, explained the new guidance is based on CDC recommendations.

“This will allow the case investigation to be greatly shortened in duration, and allow for investigators to reach more cases within the same amount of time,” Peek said.

Peek says disease investigators should focus on notifying an individual if they have tested positive, and at a bare minimum, report the demographics of the positive case.

If resources allow, disease investigators are highly recommended to ask follow up questions like if the individual has symptoms, if they’re a health care worker, and soon, if they have received a vaccine.

Some questions, such as asking if they’ve been to a gathering, are now optional.

In Washoe County, officials have been warning for over a month that contact tracers can’t keep up. The county is reporting 11,787 active cases, but Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick said that’s not accurate because the number of recoveries is underreported.

“Our disease investigators are overwhelmed and we’re no longer able to keep up with notification of all of our confirmed cases on their recoveries. So, with that number of cases, we just can’t keep up. We were able to do that prior to mid-October. Our priority now is to notify people that they’re positive so they can isolate and take action to notify close contacts,” Dick said.

Dick said the health district is focusing on conducting disease investigations with priority groups. Those include first responders, health care workers and students.

Other than that, the health district is instructing people who have tested positive to notify close contacts and their employers on their own.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Support Lucia's Report for America reporting. Headshot of Lucia Starbuck. She is sitting in the KUNR newsroom and smiling.

We need your support to ensure this vital reporting continues. Show your support by making a gift – Click Here.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America focusing on community reporting and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local community issues are her passion, including the affordable housing crisis, homelessness, a lack of access to healthcare, protests and challenges facing vulnerable communities in northern Nevada.
Related Content