Sedgwick County turns to the state for help with contact tracing

Coronavirus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – State and local health officials said they need more contact tracers. KDHE is now stepping up to help Sedgwick County to meet the demand.

“It is the backbone to finding cases, isolating, and quarantine,” said KDHE Secretary Dr. Lee Norman.

With an increase in cases and very little staff, help is needed.

“We’re so overwhelmed with the number of cases that we have and just having 18 active disease investigations that it’s a challenge enough,” said Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne.

Sedgwick County will be leaving it up to KDHE to contact trace each active case.

“We’ve been looking a little bit in the rearview mirror and sometimes the data are 2-3 days older than we wanted,” said Dr. Norman.

KDHE has hired about 50 contact tracers and plans to hire 50 more.

The state will have access to each case the county comes across.

“It should help us get the numbers down in addition to the other things we’re trying to add,” said Sedgwick County Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Garold Minns.

While health officials said it’s a relief, there are still challenges ahead.

The new Contact Tracing Privacy Act allows Kansans to opt out.

Byrne said this has made it difficult to track each case.

“When you’re not getting those contacts, they are out walking around spreading it around,” said Byrne.

Byrne hoped Kansas would talk to keep track of the spread.

“It just helps us to be able to respond better to the community needs,” said Byrne.

Byrne said she is working to get more staff hired so the department can get back to contact tracing and believed KDHE will get things on track.

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