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Health director offers guidance on COVID-19 testing, contact tracing update

As the Beaufort County Health Department reduces its COVID-19 testing hours in order to focus more on vaccinations, Health Director Jim Madson is advising the public to evaluate their circumstances when deciding whether to get tested for the coronavirus.

“What I’m noticing is a lot of people are getting tested that probably don’t really need to,” Madson said while giving an update to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners Monday. “I say that because they were a contact of a contact of a contact, and they feel worried, so they come get tested. I’m not trying to tell (those) people not to come, but they really don’t need to come.”

When the county confirms a positive case of COVID-19, the health department calls whoever that person listed as close contacts and informs them of the positive test, typically asking those close contacts to self-quarantine for 14 days. Madson said anyone who is asked to quarantine doesn’t necessarily have to get tested for COVID-19 at that time, because they will be told to quarantine regardless of the test result.

Madson added that the county is still administering COVID-19 tests to anyone who wants one.

The health department is offering or sponsoring COVID-19 testing at the following locations and times: Beaufort County Health Department, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Fresh Anointing Church in Aurora, Mondays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; The Wilkinson Center in Belhaven, Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Spring Garden Missionary Baptist Church in Washington, Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

CHANGES TO CONTACT TRACING

In order to shift more resources to its vaccination efforts, the health department is also making adjustments to its contact tracing protocol.

Originally, when the county confirmed that someone tested positive for COVID-19, they’d interview that person and then call everyone that person claimed they’d recently been in contact with.

“That’s starting to become overwhelming for the health department,” Madson said.

Changes are now being put in place. The health department will still call individuals who test positive, but now the department will ask those people to call anyone who they might’ve exposed to the virus and ask them to self-quarantine.

The department will ask individuals who test positive to share any close contacts that they’re particularly concerned about — perhaps an elderly family member, or someone with comorbidities. The health department will follow up with those contacts.

“Some of the other people that are casual contacts, or they don’t necessarily need to be contacted every day, we’re going to be cutting back on that.”

Madson said a new page with information for those who’ve been told they’re a contact of someone with COVID-19 soon will be added to the health department’s website.