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N.H. Scales Back Contact Tracing Efforts As COVID-19 Cases Surge

Josh Rogers / NHPR

Top health officials announced Thursday that the state will no longer conduct universal contact tracing in new cases of COVID-19.  The move comes after a record number of new daily cases Thursday – 323, almost 100 more than the previous day – and reports of delays in contact tracing.

There are now 2,528 active cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire – another record – and 64 hospitalizations.

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At a press conference, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said the state was only reaching about 40 to 50 percent of people who tested positive for COVID-19 on the first call.

Officials say contact tracing is no longer the most effective way of slowing the spread of the virus.

"Contact tracing is part of a containment strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it is one and only one layer or intervention for helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan. “As community transmission increases, it becomes a less effective strategy of identifying and breaking the chains of transmission."

The state will now only conduct full case investigations for those who are considered high risk populations. That includes health care workers, communities of color, and people in group living spaces.

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Shibinette said health providers will be encouraged to give their patients more information upon testing positive, instead of being immediately contacted by the state.

"The expectation - and it really has been all along - people are told that they're positive for COVID-19 usually by their health care provider. That's the first call that they always get. So that will still happen and their providers will be given the information to hand along to the patient to start the isolation and quarantine process,” Shibinette said.

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