COVID spike prompts VDH to change contact tracing, quarantine guidelines

Posted at 7:21 AM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 12:45:04-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Department of Health announced plans to prioritize contact tracing and reduce quarantine guidelines Monday.

Due to high case volumes and community transmission, the VDH said local health departments would prioritize contact tracing for certain groups, and may not contact everyone with COVID or close contacts of someone with the infection.

"Cases are really climbing," said Joanna Cirillo, Communicable Disease Public Health Nurse for the Richmond and Henrico Health Department. "We would get 50 cases a day in Richmond. Maybe 40 to 60 in Henrico, and that was alot. But now in the past week those numbers have doubled."

Cirillo said the surge in cases did not necessarily come as a shock.

"It's expected that as the weather gets colder, and the holidays come, people will gather and they will gather inside," said Cirillo.

Cirillo said the Richmond and Henrico Health District maintained a goal of calling those who tested positive for the virus and those who had been exposed in 24 hours. But she said if trends continued, local health departments may not be able to keep up.

"What we've seen in the past week, especially, is we're just getting too many cases, and too many contacts to sort of keep up with that 24 hour goal," said Cirillo.

Per new guidelines from the CDC, the VDH planned to prioritize follow-up of cases and tracing for several groups including the following:

  • people who have been diagnosed with COVID in the past six days and their households
  • people living, working, or visiting congregate living facilities
  • people involved in known clusters or outbreaks
  • people who are at increased risk of severe illness

Cirillo added that the Richmond Health District was still trying to give everyone a call -- but that could change.

"If current trends continue, then we will have to sort of prioritize our case in communities, yes," Cirillo said. "But locally here in Richmond. We're not doing this yet. This is VDH's recommendations if we need to use them."

Along with those changes, the VDH also announced reduced quarantine guidelines Monday.

Both the CDC and the VDH still recommended a quarantine period of 14 days after exposure -- they said that is the safest option. But those with no symptoms could end their quarantines after day 10 without testing, or after day seven with a negative test on day five.

"But again, for a full another week, you're going to have to watch your signs and symptoms, wear a mask, stay away from other people as much as you can. Because there's a small risk that you could still develop COVID 19. And we recognize that, but we also recognize that people have to go back to work," Cirillo said.