JEFFERSON — Jefferson County continues to notify people who have tested positive for COVID-19, but there is a backlog of calls to be made due to the large volume of cases in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, the county experienced its largest jump in coronavirus cases in one day, 62 reported Thursday, putting Jefferson County at 2,112 since the start of the pandemic. There have been nine deaths.
Wisconsin also saw its largest total of positive cases in a day with 3,747 on Thursday. That’s an increase of almost 500 over the previous daily record set on Tuesday.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the state has more than doubled since the start of September to 162,325.
Gail Scott, Jefferson County Health Department director, said that the surge has kept her staff quite busy.
“We are still notifying people when they test positive and are behind somewhat due to the large number of cases coming in,” she said Thursday. “People may also be notified by various means depending on where they get tested.”
The county is reaching people within 48 hours of a positive test, she said. However, it should be noted that this might actually be up to five days after initial testing when one includes lab processing time, notification of the result to the health-care facility, and time to enter those results into the state data system for communicable diseases.
Scott said more places are putting results on their MyCompass electronic medical record (EMR), so patients can review the results as quickly as possible.
Also, she said, there is word that Wisconsin Army National Guard testing sites also might start emailing results to people being tested by its members. Since sites opened around the state in May, the Guard has used telephone calls to notify people if they have tested positive.
While the county contacts people who test positive, places like Fort HealthCare or a National Guard site also contact people.
“Right now, for coronavirus tests we collect at Fort HealthCare, most of which are sent out to an outside lab, we get the results back from the outside lab on average 25 hours later,” said Chris Barron, executive director of population health and clinical services at Fort HealthCare. “Positives are called to the patient on the same day we receive them. Positive patients will also receive a call from their public health department by county of residence. Thus far, the calls for positive results from FHC have not been delayed.”
He said those with MyCompass might even see results there before receiving a phone call.
Both the county and state have halted contact tracing for people who have tested positive for the virus because they do not have enough staff members to keep up as the statewide new caseload surged to 3,000 a day.
Scott said her department is asking county residents who test positive to inform that result to people with whom they have had contact.
While the large number of cases has affected contact tracing, Scott said the county team continues to communicate to team lead nurses if there are outbreaks in schools, businesses or long-term care facilities.
“The contact tracers who are doing the disease notifications have said that most people are very gracious and understanding and very cooperative in notifying their contacts,” she said. “There are also exceptions in special circumstances and all staff are trained or have a team lead registered nurse to ask questions.”
She said the there is a model that shows when the county can add tasks like notifying contacts back, but current numbers have them at capacity using a crisis model of contact tracing.
Tracking the virus cases through the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System will be unavailable starting Friday to enable an upgrade in the system will go live on Monday.
The goal is to improve the contact tracing function, said Scott.
The change could affect the daily positivity rate of the virus, so Scott said people checking that data should look at the seven-day average.
Also on Thursday, the alternate care facility at State Fair Park in West Allis was ready to take patients if needed. Hospitalizations from the virus has placed hospitals near maximum capacity, with 84 percent of beds now taken in the state, according to the Department of Health Services.
As of Thursday, the makeshift hospital had yet to admit anyone, said Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm.
“This is going to get worse before it gets better,” Palm said. “Wisconsin is in crisis and we need to take this seriously.”