WA analyst: State is failing to reach own goals on contact tracing

Dec 9, 2020, 1:17 PM | Updated: 2:17 pm
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(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

The Washington State Department of Health is having great success at contact tracing, though critics believe that’s because they’ve redefined what success means. Todd Myers is the Director at the Center for the Environment with Washington Policy Center, and joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss how he believes that the data paints a different picture.

“So with contact tracing, there’s two parts. The first part is that when somebody tests positive that information is shared with county and state health departments, and then within 24 hours, somebody is supposed to call you if you’ve tested positive to talk about, ‘Okay, here’s what you do. And here’s what you do to contact the people that you may have exposed or the state offers to help you, because that way you can immediately reach people before they spread it as well, if they’ve been infected,” he said.

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“So the state set a target of reaching 90% within the first 24 hours to make sure that people didn’t get very far, and the most recent report has come out, and for the two most recent weeks they have reached not 90% but 6%. Now, the initial reaction of people is ‘Well, are people not responding? Are they afraid to talk to the government?’ That is not it.”

According to Myers, this disparity is not a result of the public, but how many the government has actually been trying to reach.

“They only tried to reach 11% of people. So even if 100% of people had gotten back to them within the first 24 hours, they only would have reached 11%. So this is completely a state failure. It is important because it helps us know where the illness is, know who’s been infected, and prevent it from spreading. The state itself has called this critical, which is why they set the targets, and yet they are completely failing to meet their own goals,” he said.

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“And the worst part is when asked about this by the News Tribune, about how are you doing? They said, ‘Well, we’re actually doing better than expected, given the circumstances.'”

What are those circumstances? Myers says the state attributes the lack of contact tracing precision to the recent surge in cases, though doesn’t buy this as an excuse considering a winter wave has been suggested for months.

“What they claim is that the recent surge in cases has overwhelmed their staff. That, I think, is ridiculous for a couple of reasons. First, they have been preaching for a long time that another wave was coming, that when winter arrived that there would be another wave. So this has been the justification for the continued lockdown. In fact, the governor himself said that he wasn’t going to reduce restrictions because they expected a second wave,” he said.

“The second thing is it is never more critical than now. Now is the exact time when we need it more than ever, not when rates are low. But when rates are high, when intensive care units are filling up as they are, so at the very moment that it is most important they are doing the worst.”

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WA analyst: State is failing to reach own goals on contact tracing