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Erie County contact tracers are "back on their game" according to county

Tracers have doubled since November
Posted at 4:16 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 23:14:19-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The amount of Erie County contact tracers has nearly doubled in a month.

“We’re back on our game and once again extremely efficient,” said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County’s Health Commissioner.

This comes after the county saw a severely depleted contact tracing force last month, as cases began to rise.

In November, the county said it was experiencing a contact tracing shortage. Cases, started to spike, and the contact tracers, who are employees in other departments of county government had gone back to their regular positions.

Now, the DOH says it has 98 tracers.

“From social services, senior services, the Sheriff,” she said.

Dr. Burstein says the county is now in the process of a pilot program to shift tracers to remote work. Now, tracers will be able to do their jobs from home. Dr. Burstein says that starts Monday.

Additionally, the county says it has a special epidemiology team working closely with the schools.

This week, Dr. Burstein says 78 students and staff in Erie County Schools (who are doing hybrid learning) tested positive. That’s compared to 220 last week and 226 the week before.

“We’re not seeing the transmission in the classroom. It’s mostly staff to staff, not adhering to the guidelines,” she said

The county says the schools who have been testing students for in person learning last week conducted 3,110 tests. 13 were positive for a positivity rate of 0.4%.

“That is good. That means there is not a lot of asymptomatic transmission in the schools.”

Dr. Burstein says the quarantine criteria for “contact” in the schools will be changing. Previously, if someone in the classroom tested positive, the entire class would have to quarantine. Now, Dr. Burstein says it’s just those who have been within six feet for ten minutes or more.