Meck County to scale back on community contact tracing

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County said it is scaling back on contact tracing in the community.

The county said “COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be going anywhere” and tracing isn’t sustainable in the long term. Instead, the county will focus its tracing efforts on group living settings, such as shelters, prisons, and long-term care facilities.

“The contact tracing and case investigation transition is one step toward starting to think about this differently in terms of what we are tracking,” Dr. Raynard Washington, Mecklenburg County’s health director, said.

Washington said he anticipates the county will eventually transition to a flu-like surveillance system with less of an emphasis on individual COVID-19 cases and more focus on severe illness. He said he doesn’t know when this will happen but it will be at the direction of the CDC and NCDHHS.

“Folks won’t be as so intense about every day metrics,” he said.

Commissioner Laura Meier said she appreciated Dr. Washington’s comments and hopes people take comfort in them that it won’t be this way forever

“If we can start tracking COVID by hospitalizations versus positivity rate, that’s going to be huge,” she said. “Everyone is so intense right now. High anxiety. It’s time. We all want to end this.”

When COVID is defined endemic, Atrium health leaders said higher risk people will be advised to take basic precautions when COVID picks up speed.

“Things like masking if you’re around other people and really encouraging those around you to stay away if they’re sick,” Dr. Katie Passaretti of Atrium said.

Mecklenburg County is still relying on the percent positive rate to determine when the mask mandate will be lifted. The county wants the rate to be under 5 percent for a week. Leaders have signaled they have no intention of changing this while omicron surges. Mecklenburg County’s percent positive rate is currently more than 30 percent.

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