Contact tracing in Arkansas: An overview

Coronavirus

Daily COVID-19 cases in the Natural State sit higher than the number of contact tracers, but the ADH claims it has enough.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — In July, the Arkansas Cares Act Steering Committee approved $38 million for contact tracing, but with the rise in recent COVID-19 cases, the question remains: Does the state have enough?

There are around 750 to 790 contact tracers on any given day, according to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).

Danyelle McNeill with the ADH said the numbers fluctuate, but as of October 1, these are the numbers:

COURTESY OF THE ADH

Over the past four days, the ADH reported more than 800 new daily coronavirus cases.

This is not a time to give up in the middle of a pandemic. We need to press on.

DR. APPATHURAI BALAMURUGAN, ADH ACTING CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER

ADH Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Appathurai Balamurugan “Dr. Bala” said with this uptick in cases, contact tracing has been a challenge.

“On average, this person could’ve been in contact with two or three people,” Dr. Bala said. “You multiply that [daily COVID-19 cases] times 3, and that’s close to 1,800 to 2,000 people our contact tracers need to reach on any given day.”

Researchers with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) said the over next few months, active cases will rise.

UAMS College of Public Health Dean Mark Williams said projections show Arkansas will hit its peak in February.

“There’s both an increase in cases, and an increase obviously in hospitalizations,” Williams said. “I believe we are expecting around 1,000 people hospitalized per day, not new, but accumulative.”

Regardless, the ADH said contact tracing staffing is sufficient to meet the projection needs.

“There was a point in the past where we were struggling to get more, but I think we have enough contract tracers now,” Dr. Bala said.

The work has been contracted to two vendors — General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) and Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC), according to the ADH.

In July, the Arkansas Cares Act Steering Committee approved $38 million dollars for contact tracing.

According to the ADH, as of October 2, only $6 million has been used so far:

  • GDIT has been paid $983,705.09, and there is a pending invoice of $1,992,417.51 for its services in August.
  • AFMC has been paid $3,428,460.42.

“To date, ADH has used a portion of the $38 million toward paying invoices from 2 contract tracing providers (AFMC and GDIT) for rendered contract tracing services, covered costs for extra help staff, and purchased language interpreter services related to contact tracing,” McNeill said.

Stay with KNWA/FOX 24 as we continue to follow our state’s contact tracing efforts.

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