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Mecklenburg County stops contact tracing, instead, it's on you

Instead of being called, those who've gotten COVID-19 received texts on how to contact trace themselves.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County is scaling back its COVID-19 contact tracing efforts and will instead depend on individuals to do it themselves. 

The change, of course, was announced to Mecklenburg County leaders during an update on the COVID-19 pandemic at Wednesday's Board of County Commissioners meeting.

Dr. Raynard Washington, who was sworn in as Mecklenburg County Health Director Wednesday, said about 83% of current COVID-19 cases in Mecklenburg County are the omicron variant. Washington said he expects that number to rise, but expects ad decline from the current surge soon. 

Washington then went on to discuss tracking the virus in the county. 

"The state is beginning to transition our case investigation and contact tracing to more of a sustainable approach," he said. 

"We've been working for the last two years to call almost every person diagnosed with COVID, which is not sustainable," he added. 

Instead, you'll be asked to do it on your own. 

Lately, those who are testing positive with a reported test (not at-home rapid tests) are receiving a text message from North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services. 

Here's how it works:

  • When you open the link, it asks when you first had symptoms. 
  • It then explains who you need to notify based on when you were transmissible with the virus. 
  • The link then asks you to fill out the information for those who are needing to be contacted and then the system will notify those people. 

"We will be adding some updated information to the community in the coming weeks about how we will be transitioning," Washington said. 

Washington also told commissioners at Wednesday's meeting he believes we could be getting close to our peak in the latest surge, and could soon start seeing cases drop.  

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"Hopefully we'll be able to see that in the next few weeks," Washington said. 

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As the highly contagious omicron variant continues to spread, though, county leaders are urging people to mask up when indoors. Washington said any mask is better than no mask, but a cloth mask isn't as effective as an N95 or KN95. 

"I don't remotely believe getting rid of the mask mandate will be on my agenda anytime soon," Commissioner Leigh Altman said. 

"Wearing a mask, to me, is at the minimum of what we can do," Washington added.

RELATED: New CDC guidance encourages N95 or KN95 respirator in these settings

Washington also informed county leaders that 52% of those eligible for a booster in Mecklenburg County have rolled up their sleeves for the shot. First vaccines, on the other hand, have plateaued -- stuck around 66%. 

Mecklenburg County, like many other counties across the country, is experiencing shortages when it comes to rapid at-home tests. The county is expecting another shipment of the rapid at-home tests but does not yet know when to expect the shipment to arrive. 

Former Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris was also honored at Wednesday's meeting and was inducted into the Order of the Hornet. Harris retired two weeks ago and said she remains committed to the community. 

Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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