Natrona COVID-19 spike stretches contact tracing resources thin, CNCHD re-evaluating efforts

Natrona County has seen has seen 103 total lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, June 30. With a jump in the number of cases in recent weeks, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department (CNCHD) provided an update on their response efforts on Tuesday.

“Since late last week, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department was notified of 11 additional positive COVID-19 cases within Natrona County,” the update said. “Last week, Natrona County saw the largest number of new cases in a one-week period since this pandemic began.”

The department said that due to the situation, their contact tracing and COVID-19 response team are busier than they have ever been since the pandemic began.

“Due to the substantial increase in cases, limited staff and incredible man hours and resources required to sufficiently contact trace for each new positive case in our community, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department is re-evaluating our efforts to appropriately manage this virus,” the release adds.

The CNCHD says that a majority of the new cases reported in the county in recent weeks “have been of unknown transmission with likelihood of community transmission.”

“Community transmission refers to the exposure and contraction of COVID-19 from somewhere within the community, but specifics of where exposure occurred cannot be narrowed down,” the department explained. “Across the nation, community spread is responsible for increased transmission of COVID-19 within communities through common interactions.”

“As we continue into the summer with more outings and events, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department recommends increased diligence in precautions to prevent likelihood of transmission of COVID-19.”

The update adds that the contact tracing process is “extensive, complex, time intensive and requires timely response.” The CNCHD explained that the contact tracing efforts start after they receive notification from the Wyoming Department of Health of a new confirmed positive case.

“CNCHD then reaches out by phone for an interview with this new case to identify exposure periods and contacts within that exposure window,” the release explained. “Our contact tracing staff depends on the positive case to share as much information as possible to minimize further transmission in our community.”

Contact tracing efforts vary from case to case since each person’s situation is unique.

“[S]omeone with a longer exposure period, who may have worked in a high risk setting, or who attended many outings and events, creates a lengthy list of contacts,” the CNCHD explained. “Many cases have multiple offshoots connecting them to other places or people, weaving an intricate and difficult to narrow down web.”

“It is extremely difficult to determine the order or details of each exposure or connection, especially as more and more community transmission is occurring. Contact tracing and epidemiologic mapping is this capacity is incredibly detailed, extensive, time intensive and requires great epidemiologic training.”

The department said that their staff numbers are limited, but that they are working hard to conduct the contact tracing efforts.

“CNCHD is thankful for the patience and cooperation of our community and partners in this process,” the release adds. “This recent increase in cases is a reminder that COVID-19 is still within Natrona County and can quickly effect our entire community.”

“This is why it is crucial for all of us to continue to follow the recommendations and guidance for limiting transmission of this virus.”

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