Amid surge in COVID-19 cases, Clark County Public Health adjusts contact notification process


The county will now focus on exposures in ‘priority locations,’ while relying on confirmed cases to notify close contacts

CLARK COUNTY — Clark County hit 2,000 total COVID-19 cases back in early August, five months into the pandemic.

I took just four weeks for the county to add its most recent 2,000 cases.

A 3D model of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A 3D model of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On Tuesday, Clark County Public Health (CCPH) reported 277 new cases and two more deaths; the highest single-day addition of new positive COVID-19 tests since the start of the pandemic.

To date, the county has reported 6,747 cases and 82 deaths due to COVID-19. 

The most recent victims were both women, both in their 80s, and both with underlying health conditions.

Hospitalizations also reached a new high on Tuesday, with 54 confirmed and 10 suspected cases taking up 10.2 percent of the county’s 616 licensed hospital beds.

With the recent surge in new cases, CCPH said Tuesday that their investigators have been unable to keep up with contacting new cases and then notifying close contacts directly.

Instead, the county will now continue reaching out to new cases to interview them, but then asking them to isolate and notify anyone they’ve recently been in contact with.

“In many instances cases are already notifying their close contacts and doing so more quickly than we’re able to,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County public health officer and health director in a statement on Tuesday. “With the help of the community, we can continue to identify and notify close contacts who need to quarantine.”

County staff will now be focusing on tracking potential exposures at priority locations, including schools, long-term care facilities, the County Jail, and food processing facilities.

If an exposure occurred at a priority location, Public Health will work with the facility to identify close contacts and provide guidance on quarantine and testing.

“We believe these changes will allow us to more quickly interview cases, ensure they are isolated while contagious, and identify priority locations that may need our help to prevent or mitigate an outbreak,” said Melnick.

Once a confirmed case is contacted, Public Health will provide them with information on how to self-isolate, and who qualifies as a potential close contact.

A close contact is identified as someone who lives in the same home, or was within 6 feet of the sick person for more than 15 minutes. That time can be decreased if the infected person was experiencing symptoms that caused them to be coughing or sneezing.

Anyone who is deemed to be a close contact of a confirmed case is being asked to quarantine for 14 days from their last known contact with the infected person. They should not go to work, unless they can work from home, and should remain home from school or any social gatherings.

A confirmed case should self-isolate for 10 days from symptom onset, or until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours.

Anyone who has tested positive but is not experiencing symptoms should isolate for 10 days from the date of their positive test.

Further information can be found on the Clark County Public Health website.

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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