In this May 8 photo, registered nurse Katie Hammond looks up as she talks on the phone in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Harborview Medical Center, which is part of Seattle-area health care system UW Medicine, in Seattle. UW Medicine, which has played a leading role in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, is now facing a huge financial hole because of the fallout from COVID-19. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

In this May 8 photo, registered nurse Katie Hammond looks up as she talks on the phone in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Harborview Medical Center, which is part of Seattle-area health care system UW Medicine, in Seattle. UW Medicine, which has played a leading role in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, is now facing a huge financial hole because of the fallout from COVID-19. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

1,371 contact tracers ready to assist health departments

Inslee: Goal continues to “box in” virus

OLYMPIA — More than 1,300 people in Washington state have been trained and are ready to work with local health departments to do contact tracing once a case of the coronavirus has been confirmed in a county.

At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said that of those already trained, 351 are from the National Guard, 390 are from the Department of Licensing and 630 are state or local health professionals. He said that number could be expanded even more in the coming weeks.

Inslee said that while the social distancing efforts that have been in place since March have been frustrating, they have been “significantly effective.”

“Now as we attempt to transition to open back up our economy, we are simultaneously moving to this second initiative of testing, contact tracing and isolation,” he said.

Inslee said that the goal continues to “box in” the virus by first having people who think they have symptoms to quarantine themselves and seek testing.

The goal, he said, is to contact those who test positive within 24 hours of testing and to contact those the people came in contact with within 48 hours.

He said that testing data will be accessible only to health professionals, and those contacted about a potential exposure will not be given the identity of the person who has tested positive.

Kittitas County Public Health Administrator Tristen Lamb said that after weeks with no cases her county is now dealing with an outbreak, and that “state and local partnership has never been more crucial.”

“This disease isn’t stopping at our county’s border,” she said, saying her county needs investigators and “we need them now.”

“Case and contact investigation needs to be done in real time for it to be effective,” she said. “Now that we’re in the midst of outbreak, our No. 1 limiting factor is truly time. The longer it takes for us to do this work, the longer COVID-19 is in our communities.”

Inslee’s announcement about the trained contact tracers comes as eight counties have been given approval to relax some COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions early as the state move through a four-stage reopening process.

Among the guidance issued by Inslee as it relates to partial reopening of restaurants who are offering table service is the creation of a daily log of customers and contact information for them in order to facilitate contact tracing efforts.

Inslee said Tuesday that he is continuing to work with the state’s restaurant association to refine the guidance and to ensure protocols protecting privacy are in place, and that the information is only used during a contact tracing investigation.

“We want to be able to open restaurants. People are anxious for that,” he said. “And we want to do some common sense things so that if someone does have an infection in a restaurant, we will be able to save other patrons’ lives. We ought to be able to do both.”

More in News

KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS
Communications officer Ian Harrington oversees a bank of computer screens at the Peninsula Communications emergency dispatch center on Wednesday in Port Angeles.
The hidden first responders

911 dispatch center struggles with employment crisis

Port Townsend Council talks to city seat hopefuls

Interviews four candidates for appointment

Christopher Urquia
Port Angeles Food Bank to go solar with state grant

Takes steps towards sustainable energy

Two vehicles totaled, two transported to hospital

Two individuals were transported to the hospital after a two-car… Continue reading

A large brush fire that charred a vacant lot near 13th and K streets on the west side of Port Angeles on Monday underscores the current level of fire danger. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)
Clallam County Fire Marshal upgrades burn ban

The Clallam County Fire Marshal has upgraded fire restrictions… Continue reading

KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS
A canoe from Ahousaht First nations of western Vancouver Island is hauled ashore by volunteers on Tuesday on Lower Elwha Clalllam land near the mouth of the Elwha River west of Port Angeles.
Power Paddlers bound for Puyallup

A canoe from Ahousaht First Nations of western Vancouver Island is hauled… Continue reading

Two banned from Port Angeles senior center

Outside food policy at center of controversy

Indigent defense caseloads may decrease

Local stakeholders express opposed perspectives on potential implications

Mike Chapman
State senate candidates debate policy differences

Chapman, Kelbon vie for 24th District

Marine sanctuary plans birthday festivities

The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is inviting the… Continue reading

Construction night crews plan work on Highways 19 and 104

Work crews will be completing the construction of the… Continue reading