Overwhelmed by COVID-19, Barren River District Health Department Suspends Contact Tracing

Nov 18, 2020

Credit U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Barren River District Health Department, which serves eight counties in south-central Kentucky, says it will no longer be doing contact tracing and issuing quarantine orders on individuals exposed to the coronavirus. 

"With disease incidence so high it exceeds public health system capacity, Barren River District Health Department (BRDHD) must adapt and direct resources to continue efforts to mitigate the virus's unrestrained spread," the health department said in a news release Tuesday.

Health officials stress the end of contact tracing doesn’t eliminate the fact that all individuals exposed to COVID-19 must still quarantine. 

Instead of contact tracing, the BRDHD says it will rely on those who test positive to notify family, friends, co-workers, and others who may have been exposed and urge them to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

In an interview with WKU Public Radio last week, the BRDH's regional coordinator for contract tracing, Anastasia McAdams, said 44 tracers were on the job with ten new hires in training.  At the time, she said those were enough to handle the workload.

“They’re clocking in so many hours each week to handle all these cases. We’re definitely on mandatory overtime to get all these people taken care of," McAdams said. "I would just say to the community to be patient with us as we deal with the surge in cases.”

Due to the large volume of cases and strained resources, the health department also says there’s a delay between individuals receiving their positive test result and being contacted by the health department.  Individuals should not wait on a call from BRDHD to begin self-isolating or self-quarantining at home.

The BRDHD serves Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Simpson, and Warren Counties.  As of Tuesday, the district has recorded a total of 11,473 cases of COVID-19 and 149 deaths.