Clark County and Southern Nevada Health District officials updated the public on plans to increase contact tracing of COIVD-19 cases in Southern Nevada, and called upon those who receive a phone call, text or email notification of a positive test result to follow self-isolation instructions to help slow the spread of the virus in our community.
"Without a vaccine, our goal is to find ways to work together to live with this virus safely and keep as much of our economy open as possible," said Clark County Commission Chairman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who also serves as Vice Chair of the Health District's Board of Health. "We are testing thousands of people every day in Southern Nevada. As we find more positive cases, it's important for us to educate the public about what people should do if they test positive or come in close contact with someone who tests positive. The goal is to limit the spread of the virus, and the best way to do that is to take it upon yourself to self-isolate, practice social distancing, wear face coverings and practice good hand-washing hygiene."
To date more than 293,000 people have been tested in Clark County. Patients receive test results from the lab, health care provider or clinic that performed their COVID-19 test, and all test results, positive or negative, are reported to the Southern Nevada Health District. Currently, the Health District has about 60 staff working COVID-19 cases and is working to significantly increase its ranks of disease investigators and contact tracers to follow up with people who test positive for the virus and their potential contacts. Disease investigators follow up with those who test positive for the virus and conduct the case investigation, while contact tracers follow up with the identified close contacts of those who test positive. The Health District is in the process of adding 200 case investigators, 100 through UNLV and 100 through a contract with a local call center. The Health District is also adding approximately 200 contact tracers, 80 through a grant with the state, 100 through a state contract, and 25 through staff that Clark County's Department of Family Services has dedicated to assist with contract tracing efforts.
"We are working diligently to follow up with people in as timely a manner as possible when we receive notification of positive test results," said Dr. Michael Johnson, Director of the Community Health Division for the Southern Nevada Health District. "If you test positive for the virus, it's important for you to follow instructions from your health care provider. Additionally, family members and those who are a close contact of someone who has tested positive should get tested as soon as possible and stay home for 14 days starting from the day they were exposed to help our community limit the spread of the virus."
Officials are reminding the public to respond to calls from Health District staff or text and email notifications it may receive from the agency. The Health District continues to use an automated system to expedite notifications of people who test positive for COVID-19. Automated notifications are received through text or email, and provide information on self-isolation, ask the recipients for information on their health, and to identify close contacts. The public is urged to do their part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community by "answering the call" when they receive a notification from the Health District.
"If someone receives a text message or email and are not sure if it is legitimate, they can go to our website and check to see if the phone number or contact information is accurate," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, we do know there are people trying to take advantage of this situation, and we have provided as much information as possible to make it easy to verify the notifications received are from our agency."
Due to patient confidentiality concerns, Health District officials remind the public that unless patients give permission, a patient's name will not be revealed to others during contact tracing investigations. Self-isolation guidelines for someone who has tested positive include staying at home in a specific room with a bathroom if possible, away from other family members and pets, and seeking medical care if symptoms become severe including trouble breathing or chest pain. Close contacts of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 are considered anyone who has been within 6 feet of a patient for at least 15 minutes. U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for those who are identified as close contacts including staying home and self-quarantining for 14 days, starting with the most recent day of potential exposure to COVID-19 and wearing a face covering both inside and outside your home during the self-quarantine period.
Residents with general questions about COVID-19 can call the Southern Nevada Health District's Information Phone Line at (702) 759-INFO (4636), between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The Southern Nevada Community Health Center also offers a free telehealth service by phone or computer for uninsured patients regardless of their ability to pay. More information is available on the Community Health Center website: www.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/southern-nevada-community-health-center. Community members in need of social service support to self-isolate are referred to Nevada 2-1-1 for resources.
Recommended actions to limit the spread of the virus include wearing face coverings in public places and maintaining social distance; avoiding large gatherings, staying home as much as possible, especially if you are sick, and frequent hand washing and disinfecting of frequently touched items such as door knobs, counter tops and cell phones.