Kansas Ending COVID Contact Tracing Efforts as Public Loses Interest in Participating

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Tuesday it would end its COVID-19 contact tracing program at the end of the month.

Contact tracing staff will be reassigned to contact investigations, KSN-TV reported. This move came as the state had already begun to slow down its contact tracing programs. The department added most K-12 schools will likely end their contact tracing efforts as well.

Starting February 1, Kansas residents infected with COVID-19 will be responsible for informing people they had been in contact with that they were exposed to the virus. According to the Associated Press, departments like the KDHE will only contact "high-risk settings" like daycares and schools regarding potential exposure, then the settings will be in charge of contacting people who had visited.

The AP said the department called its contact tracing efforts "futile" because the public has become less motivated to take part in them. Janet Stanek, acting secretary of the KDHE, said this is a step toward treating COVID-19 as an endemic disease. This term refers to diseases that are regularly found in a certain area.

"As we enter the third year of this pandemic, public health has to begin to adjust the level of response to help alleviate the strain on the Public Health system," Stanek said. "The pandemic is far from over, but this step is a move toward managing COVID-19 as an endemic disease. The responsibility of protecting yourself and others belongs to all of us."

This decision comes as COVID-19 cases in Kansas and most of the rest of the world are spiking due to the Omicron variant. According to data from the Mayo Clinic, the average positive test rate skyrocketed from just over 10 percent in mid-November to 31.4 percent as of Sunday.

Data from Johns Hopkins University showed the state had a seven-day average of 9,912 cases and 12 deaths daily as of Monday.

Newsweek previously reported that doctors in places like Kansas City are seeing shortages in ventilator supply and morgue space as new COVID-19 hospitalizations are starting to overwhelm hospitals. Health care workers in the state also reported staff shortages because of how many people had to call out of work due to being infected with the virus themselves.

Kansas is not the only state favoring other programs over contact tracing. Bridge Michigan reported the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services instructed local health departments to only continue contact tracing efforts in places where large gatherings are largely unavoidable, like schools, prisons and assisted living facilities.

Massachusetts also implemented similar rules, favoring testing and vaccine outreach over contact tracing.

covid, pcr test
Kansas' health department announced it would largely end its COVID-19 contact tracing efforts. Here, a woman in a mask holds a COVID-19 PCR test. Stock Image/Getty Images