PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday released data about the number of people available for contact tracing across the state, and it shows some counties have more work to do.
Contact tracing is a key part of the state’s strategy to limit the spread of COVID-19, by contacting people who are close contacts of known cases and telling them they’ve been exposed and should isolate themselves.
The importance of contact tracing has become more apparent as Oregon deals with an uptick in coronavirus cases. The state has reported at least 100 new cases each of the last 13 days, and the positive test rate has steadily increased over the past month, although it still remains well below the national average.
Despite it being such a crucial part of the state’s plan, it was unclear how many contact tracers there were in counties across the state. The OHA said Tuesday, based on county reports, there are about 500 people who can carry out case investigations and contact tracing. The agency said many counties are continuing to hire and train staff.
According to the state’s benchmark, counties should have 15 contact tracers per 100,000 people. With that in mind, there should be at least 631 people trained for contact tracing across the state, according to the OHA. The numbers released on Tuesday show some counties, including Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and several more, don’t yet have enough contact tracers, which explains the statewide shortfall of more than 100 contact tracers.
The OHA said it has just under 100 staff ready to assist counties with contact tracing. They’ve recently been deployed to Union and Lincoln counties to help with contact tracing connected to outbreaks there.
With the addition of the state’s staff, that means there are about 600 contact tracers in Oregon, an increase of 359 from previous reported numbers in late April, the OHA said.
You can see what the contact tracing situation in your county is like in the in table below. The OHA says it’s worth noting case investigators generally can perform contact tracing and the OHA’s contact tracers are not included in the data.