As Cases Rise, Broome County Struggles To Find Staff For Contact Tracing

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VESTAL, NY (WSKG)—Broome County is experiencing around 500 COVID-19 cases a week. As demand for contact tracing goes up, county health officials said they have struggled to find enough staff for contact tracing.

Earlier in the pandemic, county staff in departments that were shut down were reassigned to contact trace. The Broome County Health Department’s Interim Director Mary McFadden said many of those departments opened back up in the summer, and now that cases have risen again, the county does not have as many staff available.

(Kathy Willens/AP Photo, File)

“A lot of our staff is out doing their regulatory jobs, that need to happen, and it leaves us less infrastructure for doing the case investigation,” said McFadden. “We didn’t anticipate having this surge like we have, and we don’t know what is yet to come.”

McFadden emphasized that contact tracing is an important part of what Broome County does to reduce spread and protect residents.

“Having enough staff is critical because we want to reach people as soon as possible to alert them,” said McFadden.“We can talk to them about the importance of isolating at home, and ensure that we get their contacts.”

Meanwhile, McFadden said healthcare providers in the county are struggling to meet the demand for testing. She said the health department’s staffing issues could pose a challenge to the county testing residents again, if that becomes necessary.

“Getting funding for doing COVID response activities is very important, but it’s hard when you can’t find the actual qualified staff to do what you need them to.”

In the meantime, McFadden said the health department is working to pull qualified staff from other departments to continue to investigate cases.