Health Department Updates Data and Encourages Vaccination – Updates to Contact Tracing, Isolation and Quarantine Protocols Announced
Article Contributed by
Chautauqua County Department of Health & Human Services
The Chautauqua County Health Department (CCHD) is providing an update on COVID-19 data for the week ending November 20. Chautauqua County is currently experiencing increased rates of COVID-19, including hospitalizations and the highest rates of infections among school-aged children to date.
“The Delta strain of the coronavirus is very contagious and is especially making those unvaccinated very, very ill,” said Christine Schuyler, County Public Health Director. “I’m saddened and frustrated to see so many people struggling to breathe, hospitalized, going on ventilators, and many survivors left dealing with long-term health impacts. If you are not vaccinated, you are really taking a chance.”
CCHD and the Chautauqua County Board of Health strongly recommend vaccination and boosters for all of those eligible and recommend that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in indoor public settings, wash hands frequently, and stay home and away from others if ill.
The COVID-19 vaccines continue to be highly effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, including against the delta variant. Unvaccinated people continue to account for the vast majority of severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19. This is why you should get vaccinated. Scientists are starting to see reduced protection against mild and moderate disease, especially among the elderly and those with immunocompromising conditions. This waning of the efficacy of the vaccine is the reason for booster doses. Data show that immunity in people who have been infected with COVID-19 wanes over time and that COVID-19 vaccination can provide a higher, more robust, and more consistent level of immunity to protect people from COVID-19 than antibodies from infection alone. This is why those who have had a COVID-19 infection should still get vaccinated 3 months after their infections. Opportunities for vaccination, including for children and boosters, are widely available throughout the county. Visit the COVID-19 page of https://chqgov.com/ to find a vaccination site near you.
As of November 23, 50 persons are hospitalized in Chautauqua County hospitals with COVID-19, the majority falling in the age range of 54-64. This does not include Chautauqua County residents who are hospitalized outside of Chautauqua County, such as in Erie or Warren counties in Pennsylvania or Erie County, N.Y. According to the NYS HERDS survey, the peak number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Chautauqua County hospitals was 57 persons on January 13, 2021. Our county is approaching that peak this week.
Breeanne Agett, Epidemiologist with CCHD, has compiled the County’s weekly dashboard report which can be seen in full on the COVID-19 page of https://chqgov.com/. As of November 21, 2021, 59.9% of the County’s total population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine; 53.9% are fully vaccinated. The rates are 68.1% and 62% for those 12 and older; 69.9% and 63.6% for those 18 and older; and 91.7% and 81.2% for those 65 and older, respectively. Of the COVID-19 cases reported since August 1, 2021, 56% have not been vaccinated, 22% have unknown vaccination status, 15% are fully vaccinated, and 7% are partially vaccinated. Vaccination status is unknown if the interview was not completed at the time positive case is tracked or if staff is unable to make contact with the case.
For the week ending November 20, there were an average of 94.7 new COVID-19 cases reported for Chautauqua County, resulting in a case rate of 522.4 new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days. This figure is more than five times greater than “High Community Transmission” threshold used as a benchmark by the CDC to provide community recommendations. The CDC recommends mask wearing in public settings regardless of vaccination status when communities are experiencing high transmission.
In accordance with CDC guidelines, effective Monday, November 29, 2021, the CCHD will prioritize case investigation interviews of people who tested positive for or were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past six (6) days, based on test date or symptom onset. Contact tracing efforts will focus on household contacts and people living, working or visiting congregate living facilities, high density workplaces, schools, or other settings or events with potential widespread transmission of COVID-19. The most common place for clusters of infections is in someone’s home.
“Contact tracing is part of a containment strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it is one, and only one, layer or intervention for helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Schuyler. “With such high community transmission, it has become a less effective strategy for identifying and breaking the chains of transmission and we must prioritize our case investigations.”
Any person who tests positive for COVID-19, must isolate for 10 days past the onset of symptoms or the date the test was obtained if there are no symptoms. Because of the intense surge in cases, there is a delay between when some people find out they have a positive COVID-19 test result and when the CCHD can call them to explain isolation and notify their close contacts. Therefore, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should tell their close contacts and household contacts to quarantine.
All persons should contact their health care provider for medical advice and symptom monitoring if diagnosed with COVID-19.
If you are a close contact of someone that tests positive for COVID-19, you must quarantine unless you are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms.
The County Public Health Director’s Order for Quarantine/Isolation can be found at on the COVID-19 page of https://chqgov.com/.
Change in Quarantine Requirements
Also in accordance with CDC guidance and effective Monday, November 29, 2021, Chautauqua County residents who are a close contact to a COVID-19 positive individual and are not fully vaccinated can be released from quarantine after seven full days (i.e. day 8) following the last COVID-19 exposure under certain conditions:
- A COVID-19 test with a specimen collected and tested on day 5 or later following last exposure is negative; and,
- No symptoms are reported during daily monitoring
Quarantine cannot be discontinued earlier than after completion of Day 7 (i.e., day 8). Acceptable COVID-19 tests include NAAT (PCR) tests or antigen tests.
With this strategy, CDC estimates that the risk of spreading infection after quarantine is relatively low, between 5-12%. Individuals who are released from quarantine early are strongly encouraged to continue to monitor for symptoms and to wear a mask around others for two weeks following their last date of exposure.
The CCHD has also added two AFFIRMATION documents to its web site for individuals to provide to workplaces, schools or for travel that affirm their own quarantine or isolation periods. These forms may be used for Isolation or Quarantine Release or for NY Paid Family Leave COVID-19 claims as if it was an individual Order for Isolation or Quarantine by the Chautauqua County Public Health Director and can be accessed on the COVID-19 page of https://chqgov.com/. County residents do NOT need to call the Health Department to be released from quarantine or isolation. They should be prepared to show a negative test result from day 5 of quarantine or after if a workplace or school requests it.
Positive home COVID-19 test results should be reported to CCHD by calling 716-753-4491 or using the online reporting form found on the COVID-19 page of https://chqgov.com/. Individuals who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are not subject to quarantine as long as they remain symptom-free.