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Erie County no longer able to handle COVID-19 contact tracing amid surge in cases

Contact tracing
Posted at 7:03 PM, Jan 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-03 19:06:45-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Erie County Department of Health said Sunday its staff can't keep up with contact tracing during this spike in COVID-19 cases, and has therefore adjusted guidance for those who test positive. It also will expand hours for test sites, add more testing locations and add weekend testing appointments.

Erie County Health Department said on Monday it will expand hours for test sites, add more testing locations and add weekend testing appointments.

The ECDOH asks that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate, notify household members and other close contacts. If you are exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-`19 the ECDOH says:

  1. Self-quarantine
  2. Monitor symptoms
  3. Get a COVID-19 five to seven days after exposure OR sooner if symptoms occur

"It's likely if you are destined to get infected from close contact you would be positive within that five to seven day time frame," said Doctor Thomas Russo from the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine. "It is okay if you get tested right away, but it's important for people to realize that the virus has an incubation period ranges two to fourteen days."

Dr. Russo said based on early data, the average time of developing symptoms from Omicron, the dominating COVID-19 variant right now, is three days, and you can still test positive within the 14 day period after being exposed, even if a test results comes back negative in the five to seven days after exposure.

"We suspect people destined to be positive will be positive within that five to seven day time frame however it's important for people to realize that if you had a low exposure, partially vaccinated or even fully vaccinated, that you may pop up with a positive later so you’re not completely out of woods with that first negative test and therefore the importance of continued mask usage for entire that 14 day period."

Health leaders, including Russo say while Omicron is very contagious, data shows it causes less severe disease than other variants. However it's not similiar to a "wimpy" cold. Dr. Russo said for some it can still be very dangerous especially those who are not vaccinated.

"Compared to people who are vaccinated if you’re unvaccinated you’re 6 times more likely to get infected, 10x more likely to get severe disease and land in the hospital, and 14x to die," said Dr. Russo.

Dr. Russo says take Omicron seriously, wear a mask and get vaccinated.

"Vaccines work , they're beneficial for you and your loved ones, because it will decrease chance you’ll transmit disease to them," said Dr. Russo. "It’s not inevitable you’re going to get infected with Omicron if you go ahead and use those measures we know are effective," said Russo citing wearing a proper tight fitting mask, getting vaccinated and avoiding crowds indoors.