Health officials stress importance of contact tracing as COVID cases continue to surge

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 5:26 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Augusta County reported its highest daily positive total of COVID-19 cases during the pandemic this week.

“We’re still seeing a pretty steady increase in cases and most of our localities are also still experiencing levels of high transmission, so COVID is definitely here. It is spreading very easily from person to person,” Jordi Shelton, Communication Specialist for the Central Shenandoah Health District, said.

And the virus is still spreading across the entire Valley.

Aside from getting the vaccine and following mitigation strategies, the health department is reminding the public another important way we can stop COVID-19 in its tracks: contact tracing.

“The Delta variant is much more transmissible, so it is spreading very easily from person to person. That could be contributing to the high number of cases. We also do have still a significant portion of the population that is unvaccinated,” Shelton explained.

With only about 56 percent of people in the Central Shenandoah Health District who are 18 and older currently vaccinated, health officials say contact tracing is crucial in the fight against COVID-19. So, it’s important to take that call from the Virginia Department of Health.

“When folks don’t answer that call from VDH to identify those close contacts after they’ve tested positive, we run the risk of folks who have been exposed to COVID not knowing, not getting tested and then unknowingly passing the virus on to others,” Shelton said.

VDH says the contact tracers will never reveal your identity to your close contacts and will never ask for any money or personal information.

“[They] also are going to speak with you about what to do after you test positive, so they’re going to walk you through the process of quarantining and isolating with you and they’re going to make sure you have what you need to properly do that,” Shelton said.

Contact tracing has been used throughout the pandemic and even for other viruses because it’s shown to work.

“So make sure that you pick up the phone. You can stop the transmission of COVID-19 by doing that and effectively save lives,” Shelton said.

If you have been notified that you’ve had contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should get a COVID test three to five days after exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Here are some free testing sites that the Central Shenandoah Health District is hosting next week:

Monday, September 20 from 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. at Hillandale Park, Harrisonburg

Tuesday, September 21 from 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. at Augusta County Government Center

Thursday, September 23 from 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. at Hillandale Park, Harrisonburg

Friday, September 24 from 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. at Augusta County Government Center

PCR tests will be available. A health department employee will call with results once available.

Individuals should isolate until they receive a negative test. Call the Staunton-Augusta Health Department for questions or assistance at (540) 332-7830.

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