County Continues Focus on Testing, Contact Tracing to Help Reduce Spread of COVID-19

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Provided by Prince William County

In May, the Community Testing Task Force tested more than 3,387 people, according to Prince William County’s Emergency Management Coordinator Brian Misner. Testing was done in cooperation with the Prince William Health District, the Virginia Department of Health and Mako Medical Laboratories.

The testing showed positivity rate for the virus of roughly 15 percent among those tested at several locations in the county,  Misner recently provided an update to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on the county’s response to COVID-19.

Community Testing Task Force

The Community Testing Task Force is a collaboration between the emergency managers of Prince William County and the independent cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, the Prince William Health District. Faith leaders and representatives from the local health care community are alsao part of that collaboration.

“The Community Testing Taskforce will continue coordinating testing opportunities in the coming months…” Misner said. “It is important to know that the health care community is still doing quite a bit of testing.”

Dr. Alison Ansher is health director for the Prince William Health District. Ansher said that as the testing continues, the health district is using the data collected to trace how exposure spreads through the community to try to limit the progress of the disease.

Contact tracing is the process of finding those who might have come into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. According to Ansher, the health district will focus on contact tracing in the coming months.

“The purpose of increased testing is very important to determine the prevalence of the disease, but just as important is our ability to contact the case, and then find the contacts to the case, to try and limit the spread,” said Ansher. “Contract tracing is an essential part of a multi-pronged approach to fight the spread of COVID-19, along with testing, isolation, quarantine, social distancing, face coverings, and hygiene practices.”

Contact Tracers

As case investigators get the information about positive cases, they pass that information on to the contact tracers. The contact tracers then investigate each of the close contacts of the person who tested positive and provide instructions on where to get testing, to isolate if symptomatic, or to quarantine if asymptomatic. They then monitor contacts for symptoms for 14 days after their last contact with the case. According to Ansher, contact tracing can only be successful if the individuals contacted accept and follow the recommendations.

Contact tracing will also help the health district determine what jobs in the community might put people at higher risk for testing positive. It might also help the health district see any spikes in positive testing resulting from large gatherings, Ansher said.

Misner said testing for June and July will include working with the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park and all members of the testing task force to coordinate testing among hard-to-reach populations. A couple of other measures to increase testing include establishing up to two drive-through testing sites where people might go for testing on an appointment basis and two mobile testing facilities that might be deployed to areas in the community in need of testing.

To find testing sites, information about contact tracing, and more information about the county’s response to COVID-19, visit pwcgov.org/COVID19.

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