DEEPEN: PCHD says case investigation and contact tracing prevented 140,000 COVID-19 infections | dig deeper

TUCSON (KVOA) – Early in the pandemic, Pima County contracted with an outside company to investigate cases and trace contacts of COVID-19 cases. The cost was over $10 million.

So, has all that taxpayer money really made a difference?

Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said even before the pandemic, the county was using case investigation and contact tracing to try to stop the spread of infectious diseases.

“For many people, the first time they heard those words was during Delta or Omicron, and the current pandemic, but we do that regularly for sexually transmitted diseases, for foodborne illnesses,” Cullen said.

Overall, since the start of the pandemic, Pima County spent approximately $15 million on case investigation and contact tracing from June 2020 through the end of last month. This includes $11 million from the federal CARES Act or other grants. Cullen said this resulted in 220,000 contacts, including 70,000 case investigations.

“Our hope would be that we were able to prevent probably at least 140,000 cases,” Cullen said. “So at least double the number of cases we had investigated.”

Cullen says that right now, the case investigation and contact tracing contracts put in place by Pima County are focused on assisted living facilities, long-term care facilities and nursing homes. , as well as in schools.

“We made the county decision to retain and maintain accountability for these high-risk settings, the belief that we know the best community,” she said.

In fact, the numbers show that COVID-19 in nursing homes remains a major concern, with resident cases rising dramatically from 362 cases in December to more than 1,100 last month. Personnel cases also jumped to more than 1,600 in January, from 236 in December 2020.

“I know a lot of people are ready to move on with their lives, but we always have to be careful and aware, especially those working in the facilities, that they are doing everything to protect themselves and the residents,” Dana said. . Kennedy, with AARP Arizona.

Kennedy said the situation inside Arizona nursing homes is particularly troubling, with only about 19% of staff and about 38% of residents having received reminders.

“So we could do a much better job,” Kennedy said. “And we must continue to dedicate resources to ensure that we are not the last dead in the country.”