New York Ends Its Contact Tracing Program Despite Omicron Surge

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New York will no longer require local health departments to conduct contact tracing for positive COVID-19 cases, acting New York State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett announced.

Throughout most of the pandemic, New York residents who tested positive for the virus were supposed to receive a phone call from either a state or local health department worker who would ask questions about the number of people with whom they had recently been in close contact.

Health workers would then call those close contacts to ask them questions on how they were feeling and to request that they quarantine.

Now, New Yorkers who test positive for COVID-19 will not receive such calls and will be left to quarantine and notify their close circle of contacts of their virus status on their own.

The New York State Health Department will launch new websites Wednesday with more details on changes to the state’s contact tracing requirements as well as guidance on how to properly quarantine, Bassett said Tuesday during a press conference with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D). That information will be available at www.ny.gov/isolation and www.ny.gov/quarantine.

Hochul noted that county health departments may still make calls for contract tracing purposes if they wish; the only change is they are no longer required to do so by the state. But given the rising number of new COVID-19 cases amid the omicron surge, state health officials decided to change the contact tracing protocol to free up health department staff to do other mitigation work.

“Everybody knows somebody who’s had it, themselves, close family, friends,” said Hochul. “It spreads throughout the community in a way that it doesn’t make sense to tie up the resources of the local public health department who’d rather be giving out vaccinations and testing.”

Although the number of new cases remains high, Hochul said Tuesday that the month-long rapid rise in cases might finally be slowing down. State health officials reported 48,686 new cases in the last 24 hours.

“It looks like we might be cresting over that peak,” she said. “We are not at the end but to me, this is a glimmer of hope.”

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