DOH to use technology for contact tracing

Courtesy graphic

PIERRE — South Dakota will continue to do contact tracing of people who test positive for COVID-19, but the way in which it is done will be changing in the coming weeks.

The contact may be made through text messaging or email rather than a phone call, South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said during the Department of Health’s weekly news briefing Tuesday.

Currently, the state has 369 people, between DOH and National Guard staff, doing contact tracing and investigations, she said.

“We are not stopping that activity because it is really, really important along with testing in minimizing the spread of COVID,” Malsam-Rysdon.

The Department of Health is working to employ technology to help with tracing as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the state, she said.

“It will be a combination of text messages and email messages asking people to log into a secure portal where they can provide information that we can then use for investigation and contact tracing purposes,” Malsam-Rysdon said.

On Friday, the Wyoming Department of Health announced they would no longer be conducting widespread contact tracing and issuing quarantine orders for people who come into close contact with COVID-19 patients.

Officials with the department said that recent dramatic increases in Wyoming’s case counts have made it challenging for state and county public health representatives to handle the volume of contact tracing calls as quickly as they were able to at earlier points in the pandemic.

“To make the most of our available resources we will focus now on following up in a timely manner with residents who have tested positive. Close contacts may also receive calls at times from public health representatives, but only in certain priority situations and settings,” Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said in a news release.

On Tuesday, active COVID-19 cases increased to a new high of 16,595 and three new deaths were reported. The three new deaths were reported out of Pennington, Turner and Union counties. The state’s death toll is now 540.

New cases across the state totaled 1,024 Tuesday with 277 West River.

Pennington County recorded 125 new cases to remain the hardest hit area West River. Pennington has a cumulative total of 5,981 with 1,695 remaining active.

Lawrence County had 21 new cases, sending their total to 1,392 with 483 active.

Meade County had 18 new cases and the cumulative total rose to 1,244. Of those, 294 remain active.

There were 10 new cases in Butte county and the cumulative total rose to 818.

Other new cases West River today include 25 in Dewey, 19 in Todd, 13 in Oglala Lakota, nine in Tripp, six each in Fall River and Corson, five each in Gregory and Jackson, four each in Stanley and Haakon, two each in Mellette and Bennett and one each in Custer, Ziebach and Perkins.

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