Nebraska contact tracers remain on track, call for continued cooperation

State says texting, before calling is helping them make contact with people who’ve tested positive
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 5:31 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - After working through a backlog in November, Nebraska’s contact tracers remain on track with health officials warning it’s as important as ever for the public to cooperate.

Ninety-five percent of the time, the contact tracers are making the call to people within 24 hours of testing positive for COVID.

“The contact tracing worked very well,” said Samantha Rambo, who tested positive on December 28. “We got a call back from the state within 24 hours, and the lady was actually very friendly, she asked us where we had been, what we’d been doing.”

For the past month, the state’s contact tracers have been texting people before calling, and believe that’s helping them make contact. Local health officials say the dip in COVID cases also helps

“We’re able to make our first attempts to our cases a little quicker because cases are down from where they were a month ago, " said Justin Frederick, supervisor of communicable disease epidemiology for the Douglas County Health Department.

But making contact with the positive person is just the start. Officials say if you get a call because you’ve been exposed, it’s critical you follow the CDC’s quarantine recommendations, which recently changed from 14 to 10 days.

“Hopefully, we have better compliance with quarantine because it’s not the full two weeks. We’re not asking people to stay home from work or school for two weeks,” Frederick said. “We need people to comply with those public health recommendations otherwise contact tracing’s not really effective and right now this is all voluntary, and we’re relying on people to do the right thing.”

And if you have any doubt about how quickly exposure can turn bad, just take it from Samantha Rambo, who happens to be a nurse practitioner.

“I’m part of the mass testing team at a meat factory, and have been since June and never caught COVID,” she said. “Of course we wear our masks, and are very well protected, but it was from my husband and my daughter where I had gotten it, just that close contact.”

In Nebraska, local health departments are managing roughly 40 percent of the contract tracing workload; with the state taking on the rest. State officials say they are fully staffed and prepared for any post-holiday surge in cases.

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