Wisconsin making progress toward 1,000 contact tracers goal

DHS releases hospital gating criteria

Gov. Tony Evers
Gov. Tony Evers

Last updated on May 7th, 2020 at 12:02 pm

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said on Tuesday the state is making progress toward its goal of deploying 1,000 contact tracers to investigate the spread of COVID-19 throughout Wisconsin. 

The goal is one of several benchmarks included in Evers’ Badger Bounce Back plan to reopen the state. 

DHS has trained 401 contact tracers over the past two months, and it is planning to hire hundreds more to meet its target.

Within days of posting job openings, the state has received over 1,000 applications, and interviews are planned for next week, DHS said.

Contact tracers seek to interview everyone who has tested positive for the coronavirus to learn who they have had recent contact with and then contact those individuals to provide guidance on testing and isolation. The Badger Bounce Back plan includes the goal of interviewing positive cases within 24 hours of diagnosis, and contacts within another 24 hours.

DHS is scaling up its contact tracing efforts as it continues to bolster COVID-19 testing throughout the state. There is now capacity to provide 85,000 COVID-19 tests per week – another benchmark of Badger Bounce Back – and Evers this week announced plans to test all nursing homes, add new drive-thru community testing sites and test everyone associated with employer outbreaks.

“Our local health departments are already doing an excellent job with this work, and we want them to know we have their back,” Evers said. “As we increase testing to 85,000 a week, we’re expecting a big increase in the number of contact interviews per week, and we’re scaling up to meet that demand as well as deal with potential surges from local outbreaks.”

DHS also announced on Tuesday the criteria hospitals will need to meet before the state can begin moving into the first phase of Badger Bounce Back. Phase 1 of the plan would allow gatherings of up to 10 people, restaurants to reopen with social distancing requirements and nonessential businesses to resume with restrictions. 

The metrics include: 95% of hospitals affirming they can treat all patients without crisis care, and that they have arranged for testing for all symptomatic clinical staff treating patients at the hospital. The criteria also require a downward trend of COVID-19 cases among health care workers calculated weekly.

“The Badger Bounce Back plan is our road map to turning the dial in Wisconsin,” said DHS secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Ensuring we do not overwhelm our hospital capacity is integral to that plan, and having this hospital gating criteria in place makes that a more attainable goal.”

DHS plans to begin reporting this data on May 8.

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