County, city leaders respond to shift to ‘crisis model’ of contact tracing

MADISON, Wis.– There are 180 COVID-19 contact tracers working for Public Health Madison and Dane County, and there’s not enough of them to keep up with the high volume of positive cases.

Public Health officials are shifting contact tracing to a “crisis model.”

“You can’t assume you’re healthy and not spreading COVID-19. We can’t tell you if you’ve been exposed and are at risk of having COVID-19. You need to reduce your risk through your actions,” Public Health Madison and Dane County Director Janel Heinrich said.

Heinrich said those who test positive will still be notified, but calls to figure out where you got it or who you have have exposed likely won’t happen.

“The number of cases have simply overrun our health department’s capacity,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said.

Parisi said this isn’t a problem that can be fixed in Dane County alone.

“We’re not an island and we do the best that we can, but tens of thousands of people cross our borders everyday,” Parisi said.

Mayor of Madison Satya Rhodes-Conway added that the crisis is a signal to state and national leaders that cities and counties need more resources to make it through the pandemic.

“We have folks coming from around the state to get tested here. We have folks coming from around the state to use our hospital system. I don’t begrudge that, but that means there is a need for around the state for more testing and for more healthcare,” Rhodes-Conway said.

Ultimately, Heinrich said making it through this pandemic is going to take effort from everyone.

“We don’t have to get to that point where people are getting exposed, if we avoid the activities that spread COVID-19 in the first place,” Heinrich said.

Heinrich and local leaders ask people to reconsider upcoming plans that might further spread the virus, adding that although the county is already in a tough spot, it’s not too late to turn the numbers around before winter.