Kansas abandons efforts to trace contacts for COVID-19 infections

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TOPEKA — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Tuesday it would stop contact tracing for COVID-19 at the end of the month because of a lack of cooperation and a surge in new cases.

Janet Stanek, the agency’s acting secretary, also told lawmakers during a Senate panel meeting that the agency no longer requires schools to track the source of infections.

The agency will stop contact tracing Feb. 1 and instead ask individuals who test positive to let their close contacts know about potential exposure to the deadly disease.

“The vast amount of cases is a driver,” Stanek said. “Additionally, when contact tracing started, the public was more willing to share information. We are not finding that the public is as willing to share information, so efforts relating to contact tracing end up being a little futile at this point.”

The agency reported more than 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 between Monday and Friday last week, an unprecedented surge. Multiple school districts have closed down this week because of student and faculty illness.

Stanek said schools have been unable to keep pace with contact tracing “because people are being diagnosed by the hundreds.”

“We would like to have the schools if they can continue contract tracing to continue doing that, but if not to discontinue that to relieve one more stresser that they have, already dealing with trying to keep kids in school and teachers and staff there as well,” Stanek said.

The agency will re-evaluate in 30 days.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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