“We at the state have not been doing our job”: Gov. Ricketts says Nebraska has contract tracing backlog of 2,600 cases

Nebraska News

LINCOLN, Neb. (KCAU) – After discovering a backlog of about 2,600 cases to contract trace, the state of Nebraska is taking steps to reduce the backlog.

Refereincing a question asked at a press conference last week of a woman who waited 8 days to hear from contract tracer, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts Friday said the state has not done been keeping up with contract tracing positive COVID-19 cases. Investigating the case of the woman waiting eight days, Rickets said officials discovered a backlog of about 2,600 cases as of Thursday afternoon.

“We at the state have not been doing our job. We have not been keeping up with the surge in cases we’ve been see ing and allowed a backlog to develop,” Ricketts said.

With the importance of contract tracing, Ricketts said they are making amends to help catch up on the backlog.

Ashley Newmyer, the chief data strategist of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that they are taking numerous steps to try to resolve the back log.

The 2600 cases represents the cases where contact tracers have not completed two call attempts to contact a person. Newmyer said that about half need the second call, and the other half need the first call.

To help alleviate the backlog, contract tracers are taking several steps. First, they are reducing the number of questions to shorten the calls length. They have also reduced the number of call attempts from five to two. They are also now focused on calling only those who tested positive of COVID-19. They have also suspended calling close contacts and are asking the positive cases to contact their close contacts.

Mewmyer added they are increasing their contract tracing staff. The addition of staff will help also through the holidays.

Newmyer also said the state has rolled out a pre-contact text feature, which contact tracers will text a case to alert them of a call from an unfamiliar number to take place later that day so that contract tracers can do their job.

Newmyer said that they hope to be through the backlog by the end of next week.

When asked about how the backlog developed. Newmyer said they didn’t hire staff as quickly as needed. Ricketts added that they should have been more on top and brought new staff in sooner.

Newmyer said that by completing an interview will help with Nebraska’s hospital capacity.

Ricketts ended his press conference by asking Nebraskans to do their part to slow the spread of the virus and lower the hospital capacity by

reduce amount of time going out in public, maintaining six feet of distance from another person, washing hands often, wearing a mask in public, staying home if sick, and working from home if possible. He also encouraged getting tested through TestNebraska if needed, and to rethink the Thanksgiving celebrations.

Watch a replay of the press conference below.

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