ODH says schools can stop universal contract tracing

ODH shift is also recommended for health departments
COVID contact tracing rules change for schools, health departments
Posted at 10:23 AM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 10:23:34-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Health is allowing local health departments and schools to stop universal contact tracing for COVID-19, according to a memo from Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the director of ODH.

“The quick spread of the Omicron variant and its rapid clinical course have made universal contact tracing, case investigation and exposure notification impractical,” Vanderhoff wrote.

The memo said local health departments should shift to a cluster, or outbreak-based, model and prioritize people in high-risk residential settings like nursing homes and prisons, or clusters of cases related to new variants.

Vanderhoff said local schools can also discontinue universal contact tracing. But he said they should continue to follow the policy of “Mask to Stay, Test to Play.”

“Mask to Stay” allows students exposed to COVID-19 to stay in school if they wear a mask and remain asymptomatic. Test to Play says student-athletes who have been exposed to COVID should be tested twice and can keep playing if they test negative, stay asymptomatic and wear a mask “when able.”

“The best place for kids is in school, in-person, full-time,” Vanderhoff said.

School districts will also begin reporting COVID-19 cases on a weekly basis rather than a daily basis beginning Feb. 4, the memo says. Local health departments will continue to report school data on a weekly basis.

ODH has had repeated problems with the accuracy of school COVID reporting, and Vanderhoff’s memo says ODH “will continue to evaluate related school reporting requirements.”

ODH emphasized proper steps for those infected with COVID-19, and asked health departments and schools to remind the public about disease prevention strategies:

  • ODH encouraged Ohioans to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, including booster doses, calling them “the best prevention tool we have against severe illness and death.”
  • ODH reinforced the importance of mask wearing, physical distancing, improving ventilation, hand washing, cough etiquette, testing, and staying home if you are sick.

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