BILLINGS, Mont. - With an increase in COVID-19 cases comes a heavier workload for public health departments.
Shawn Hinz, the vice president of public health services at RiverStone Health, says Yellowstone County is seeing a backlog of around 600 case investigations.
A case investigation involves calling someone who has tested positive and going through a questionnaire regarding their health status and their contacts.
Each case investigation takes about an hour, which means there's around 600 hours of work that still needs to be done just with case investigations alone. Then transmitting that information into usable data to put into reports each week for Yellowstone County takes about another hour to two hours, according to RiverStone Health.
With Yellowstone County seeing a backlog of about 600 cases, RiverStone Health is asking people to let their close contacts know if they've tested positive. Beyond that, they are prioritizing their case investigations, starting with children, so schools have the best chance at staying open, and our most vulnerable, including those in long-term care or assisted living facilities. In the meantime, RiverStone Health is looking at hiring more contact tracers who can work remotely.
"We actually have a programmer in house that's developed a web-based case investigation system for us that we're currently piloting and hope to operationalize within the next couple of days," Hinz said.
If you receive a call from the health department or know that you've been exposed to COVID-19 by a close contact, you are asked to quarantine for 14 days. A close contact by definition is anyone you have spent an accumulation of 15 minutes with in a 24-hour period.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a person infected with COVID-19 won't show symptoms for up to two days and you can be infectious during that time period.