Contact tracers face significant challenges as COVID-19 cases rise in King County and Seattle

High numbers of positive COVID-19 cases are creating challenges for local health officials.

Officials with Public Health Seattle King County say they are seeing so many positive COVID-19 cases they can no longer notify everyone through phone calls.

Since November, numbers show a steady increase in COVID-19 cases in Seattle and King County.

Officials say once contact tracers reach capacity, which is 575 calls a day, they start sending a text to folks who test positive.

“The capacity of our contact tracers has been challenged significantly as COVID cases have been rapidly rising in the last month, but our contact tracers (in conjunction with contact tracers from WA DOH, who support us and other local health jurisdictions when we have more contact tracing cases than we can handle on our own) are still calling the vast majority of cases,” said Kate Cole with Public Health Seattle and King County.

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People Q13 News spoke to have gotten tested for COVID-19 in the past. They have mixed feelings about this situation.

“It’s better if you call and people pick the call you get the notification as soon as possible,” said Chandan Kumar.

Some folks think text notifications are just as good as phone calls.

“I’d rather them, honestly, probably text everyone, because then people would know they’re positive sooner than later,” said Dana Mydland.

With the text notifications, the honesty also falls on the person who tests positive to notify folks they have come in close contact with. That is something Mydland says is concerning.

“I know people who have tested positive who don’t want to tell people. So, I don’t know if I’d want to put that kind of responsibility on people if they’re not going to actually do it,” she said.

Officials say they are prioritizing their calls for areas that are impacted the most, like South King County.

If you do get a text, the message provides a link to a secure online reporting form.