Kane County COVID-19 cases outpacing contact tracing

  • Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.com, March 2, 2021Uche Onwuta, director of disease prevention for Kane County Health Department, says local hospitals are not yet seeing an overwhelming demand on beds because of the high percentage of residents who are vaccinated.

    Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.com, March 2, 2021Uche Onwuta, director of disease prevention for Kane County Health Department, says local hospitals are not yet seeing an overwhelming demand on beds because of the high percentage of residents who are vaccinated.

 
 
Updated 9/22/2021 1:20 PM

The start of school in Kane County sparked an uptick in COVID-19 cases among younger people.

That's created a demand in parents asking for help in getting their kids back in school too large for the county health department's current team of contact tracers to keep up with, slowing the process of determining who still needs to quarantine.

 

The Kane County Health Department cut its team of contact tracers when COVID-19 cases ebbed after vaccines gained widespread availability. But there are still no vaccines approved for children younger than 12. And Kane County is now considered a high transmission area for the virus.

Numbers shared by the county health department Wednesday show a surge of infections following the opening of local schools. As of Sept. 11, there were 126 positive cases among children between the ages of 5 and 11; 114 cases in children ages 12-17, and 106 cases among people aged 18-22. Those cases stem from 14 current COVID-19 outbreaks in local schools, according to a presentation by Uche Onwuta, the county health department's director of health protection.

"This is quite a burden on our resources," Onwuta told the county board's public health committee. "We are issuing letters of release for students to return to school. We are in the midst of another surge. It's a lot of calls and contact tracing hours as well as investigating these outbreaks."

Standards for contact tracing that limits the spread of the virus require 95% of close contacts to be notified and quarantined within 24 hours of exposure. Statistics show the county's contract tracing success rate for notifying people of exposures to be as low as 15% and no better than 35% within 24 hours in recent weeks.

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The county currently has 15 contact tracers.

In response, the county moved to pump $486,000 in American Rescue Plan funding into hiring and training more contact tracers Wednesday.

Onwuta said students who have been exposed to the virus but are vaccinated can return to school but must continue monitoring for any breakthrough symptoms. Local hospitals are not yet seeing an overwhelming demand on beds thanks, Onwuta said, to a relatively high percentage of Kane County residents who are vaccinated.

Data shows 60% of county residents aged 12 or older are vaccinated. There have been 847 COVID-19 related deaths in the county so far.

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