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COVID-19 contact investigations consume Mid-Missouri health departments’ resources


Health departments across Mid-Missouri are working around the clock to track down people who may have come into contact with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.

They're called contact investigations -- for multiple health departments, they require multiple, dedicated staff members to track down the contacts COVID-19 positive patients have interacted with.

At the Pulaski County Health Center, three full-time nurses and two more part-time nurses are tasked with tracking down those contacts.

Health center spokesman Israel Doba said the workers investigate where COVID-19 patients have been recently.

"We're trying to get a history of where people have been," Doba said. "Everybody can't really remember 14 days of time."

Doba said health workers have asked patients to go over their bank records over the last two weeks to help them remember where they've been. He said the health investigators will make as many as 100 phone calls tracking down the contacts.

To track down more potential contacts, the health center released a list of businesses where residents may have been exposed to novel coronavirus.

Doba said the health department can't release more specific information because it could reveal the identities of COVID-19 patients. He said releasing that information could also hurt area businesses.

"People could start avoiding those establishments over the fear of coronavirus," Doba said.

Cole County Health Department spokeswoman Chezney Schulte said the department can start contact investigations sooner depending on when test results come back.

"If a patient gets their test results back within 24 hours, we can turn around that investigation quickly," Schulte said.

Schulte added a lot of investigations have been limited because of the stay-at-home orders in place.

"Recently, a lot of contacts have been co-workers and family members. Residents are going to work and then coming straight home," Schulte said.

Moniteau County Health Center spokesman Darrell Hendrickson said the health center is working to bring in more people to help with the contact investigations.

"We sent a request to the National Guard yesterday to bring in more staff," Hendrickson said. "(COVID-19 is our primary focus right now."

Hendrickson added the investigations can become substantial quickly. He said each investigation is unique and can involve more or fewer contacts.

Like Pulaski County and Cole County, the Moniteau County Health Center is working with other area agencies to track down people with potential exposure to COVID-19. Hendrickson said health officials in Miller County are helping the health center.

Cole / Moniteau / News / Pulaski / Top Stories

Matt Ragsdale

Matt Ragsdale is a broadcast and digital producer at ABC 17 News.


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