CDC Updates Contact-Tracing and Case Investigation Guidance

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CDC Updates Contact-Tracing and Case Investigation Guidance

Nearly two years after the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for 100,000 contact tracers to contain the coronavirus, the CDC said this week that it no longer recommends universal case screening and contact tracing. Instead it encourages health departments to focus those practices on high-risk settings.

The turning point comes as the national outlook continues to improve rapidly, with new cases, hospitalizations and deaths continuing to decline, while the way out of the pandemic remains complicated. It also reflects the reality that contact-tracing programs have been abolished in nearly half of US states.

Britain ended contact tracing last week, while Denmark and Finland are among other countries that have reduced the use of contact tracers. New York City announced on Tuesday that it was ending its main contact-tracing program at the end of April and moving toward treating the coronavirus as another manageable virus.

“It’s a big change,” Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said in an interview Tuesday. “It reflects what is already happening in states and territories, especially with Omicron. There was no way with contact tracing. Many cases are not being reported, so there is no way of knowing what happened.”

The original goal of contact tracing in the United States was to reach people who have spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of an infected person and ask them to voluntarily quarantine at home for two weeks, even if they test negative. test. The aim was to reduce transmission, while Americans who tested positive monitored themselves for symptoms during their isolation. Case investigation is used to identify and understand cases, clusters, and outbreaks that require health department intervention.

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But from the start of the pandemic, states and cities struggled to gauge the prevalence of the virus due to spotty and sometimes rationed diagnostic tests and long delays in getting results.

Now CDC is pushing health departments to focus solely on high-risk settings, such as long-term care facilities, prisons and prisons, and shelters. Many immunocompromised Americans, however, have been left behind by the lifting of precautions and restrictions across the country.

“The updated guidance is in response to changes in the nature of the pandemic and the increased availability of new tools to prevent transmission and reduce disease,” said Kristen Nordlund, a CDC spokeswoman.

She said the dominance of variants with very short incubation periods and rapid transmission potential, as well as high levels of infection- or vaccine-induced immunity and the widespread availability of vaccines for most age groups, made the change possible.

Dr. Watson, who was the lead author of a 2020 report recommending that the country have 100,000 contact tracers, said she was concerned that the new guidance could overwhelm the infrastructure that needs to be exceeded 70,000. was hired to support. Contact tracers reached the country’s peak numbers during the 2020 winter boom.

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“We anticipate that contact tracing will be needed,” she said, “so some of the investments made in rebuilding the public health task force should be used more widely so that we can call them in the next emergency.”

More than 20 states still have statewide contact-tracing programs in place, according to Hemi Taverson, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy.

“I really think the federal government’s move is in line with the states,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. “They are already focusing on contact tracing in high-risk settings.”

Ms Tevarsson said contact tracing could not keep up with the omicron surge, and was no longer an effective tool if people were testing at home and not reporting results.

“As a long-term plan, it’s going to be more sustainable,” she said. “We are in a different phase of the pandemic.”

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