Saturday, June 19

Health dept.: Help contact tracers get the jump on COVID-19 spread –

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Half of the COVID-19-related deaths added to the state’s tally Monday were in West Michigan and seven were in Kent County alone.

The climbing number of deaths, which now top 8,000, are a grim reflection of surging cases. Every part of Michigan is seeing more cases and more hospitalizations.

Health officials have said one of their most powerful tools is contact tracing but because of the growing number of infections, they’ve fallen behind. They’re now following guidelines sent down from the state last week.

“There are certain age groups they want to get investigated as quickly as possible — people up to 22 years of age and then people 65 years of age and older,” Brian Hartl, the lead epidemiologist for the Kent County Health Department, said. “So really we’re trying to get these cases done more quickly. Before, we were having a backlog and getting to them when we could, but now we’re really prioritizing, getting these folks investigated early on.”

Hartl said the best way to help overtaxed contact tracers is to contact trace yourself. If you test positive, make calls to people you’ve had close contact with so they can start quarantining right away.

As far as what to expect next, experts have said all along that when cases and hospitalizations spike like they are right now, an increase in deaths will follow in about two weeks.

“We haven’t seen a decline in our daily numbers in a long time and I just think that speaks to where we’re going,” Hartl said. “We don’t have great models right now but the data keeps going up. Until we do something about it, limit our interactions with others, these numbers are going to continue to climb and we’re going to see these types of things continue to occur.”

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