Changes in local COVID-19 response mean some layoffs for temporary staff; changes in contact tracing

In a notice from Grays Harbor County Public Health, they say that they will be changing how they respond to COVID-19 cases and how and when they reach out to residents who test positive.

They tell KXRO that over the next several weeks, the health department will begin a shift in COVID-19 case investigations and contact tracing to “a more strategic approach, reflecting the evolution of the pandemic and in alignment with new guidance from state and national leaders in public health”. 

Rather than reaching out to every person who tests positive for COVID-19, efforts will be focused on four key areas: 

  •       Outbreak Investigations
  •       Case investigations in congregate, high-risk settings (long-term care facilities, etc.)
  •       Targeted case investigations among those at highest risk of more severe illness (older adults, the homebound, etc.)
  •       Targeted case investigations among those with unusual illness presentation

Those who test positive for COVID-19 and who do not fall into these categories are strongly encouraged to notify their close contacts and follow the updated isolation and quarantine guidance listed on the public health website, 

If there’s a need for further assistance after a positive COVID-19 test, the public can call the state Department of Health COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-525-0127 – additional staff will be added that will ask questions like county of residence and date of positive COVID-19 test. 

Also, a new feature on the state’s WA Notify app allows users to enter a positive test result and receive a link to anonymously alert other WA Notify users of potential exposure. 

The shift in case surveillance includes a shift in funding – Grays Harbor Public Health has already notified temporary staff of layoffs and is preparing for more in the coming months. 

“Everyone here has been deeply involved in tracking COVID-19 in Grays Harbor County and has worked long hours in an effort to keep our communities safe and healthy during this long-running pandemic,” said Grays Harbor Public Health Director Mike McNickle. “Staff cuts were inevitable at some point, but are still hard to take for those who have worked so hard during the past two-plus years.” 

Health officials say that by no means is this an indication that the pandemic is over, as current case trends in the county have shown.

“It’s as important as ever to continue wearing masks and get vaccinated and boosted, still the best defense against COVID-19,” said McNickle. “If you experience any symptoms, get tested as soon as possible and contact our Resource Center with the results.”

Public health continues to see more than 100 new COVID-19 cases reported every day in Grays Harbor, and hospitalization rates remain high.