CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Both Schenectady and Saratoga County leaders say they hope by now most know when and how to quarantine when exposed to COVID. They are relying on that common sense to help lighten the enormous load on public health.
“We want people to know what to do at the onset, you know? If somebody finds out they tested positive, we want them to isolate right away. We don’t want them to go about their lives until they hear from us,” said Schenectady County Public Health Interim Director Keith Brown.
“Since the public health system, the lab system, and the healthcare system can’t move as fast as the virus, it’s important for people when they get sick to think about their close contacts,” explained Dr. Daniel Kuhles, the Saratoga County Public Health Services Commissioner.
Schenectady and Saratoga Counties announced this week they’re resorting to CDC guidelines on streamlining contact tracing during times of strain. A statement by Saratoga County reads in part:
It is important to note that contact tracing, during which COVID-19 positive individuals are placed on isolation and interviewed to elicit close contact for quarantine, is a blunt tool whose effectiveness during times of widespread community transmission is greatly reduced in most settings. Omicron’s surge will likely cause already delayed notifications of positive reports from individuals who are tested through laboratories and pharmacies to public health to worsen. When these reports are received, Saratoga County Public Health Services will focus its contact tracing efforts on household contacts and sensitive settings. Taken together, this means you may not get a call from a county or state contact tracer. Instead, take the actions described on our Isolation and Quarantine Website appropriate for your particular circumstance.
Schenectady County is the same, with the following line on the COVID-19 information page:
Schenectady County Public Health Services (SCPHS) is asking residents who receive a positive COVID-19 test result to immediately begin isolating, visit www.schenectadycounty.com/COVID19 to access the updated toolkit, and begin the contact tracing process.
“We’re prioritizing schools, high-risk settings, potential outbreaks, potential clusters, and people who are at extreme high risk of illness,” Brown said.
On top of a distinct surge in cases and the increased spread of the Omicron variant, there’s also a high demand for COVID vaccines, boosters, and testing. Public health offices are also receiving less information as more people turn to at-home tests. “Those results, unless that person calls the results in, they’re not reported to public health, and so you don’t know what you don’t know,” Kuhles told NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
All help is not lost though. Even if you don’t get a contact tracing call, Saratoga and Schenectady counties have online resources to explain the different quarantine procedures based on your circumstance. There’s also easy-to-access quarantine verification and release forms to send to your work or school. “It is incumbent on people, there is an honor system component here, where we are asking people to be honest about this,” said Brown.
“The best way to protect your health or the health of your family and loved ones is by using good judgment and common sense while celebrating the holiday and the new year,” Dr. Kuhles said.