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Local contact tracing for COVID-19 in New York now optional

NYS Gov Hochul gives a COVID-19 briefing in New York on Tuesday, January 11, 2022
Don Pollard, Gov Hochul's office
NYS Gov Hochul gives a COVID-19 briefing in New York on Tuesday, January 11, 2022

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP & WXXI News) New York will no longer require local health departments to conduct contact tracing for people who test positive for COVID-19, state health officials said Tuesday.

The shift will help public health staff across New York focus on testing and vaccination, Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said.

"The big change for New Yorkers is that if you test positive, you should no longer expect a call from your health department," Bassett said during a virtual news conference in New York City.

And Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said the spike in COVID-19 cases complicates contact tracing, which involves calling those who test positive to identify exposed people.

"Given that we have 12,000 new cases a day, it is almost impossible to do contact tracing in the way we have been in the past," Hochul said.

Counties can now decide whether they want to trace people, according to Hochul.

Monroe County officials recently indicated they supported a similar strategy, preferring to focus staff in areas like vaccination, rather than on contact tracing.

The county on Tuesday reported 2,723 new cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations continue to rise, with 689 people in the Finger Lakes region hospitalized with the coronavirus (up 10 from the previous day).

117 of those patients are in ICU (up 7 from the previous day).

The state reported 12,540 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Monday, Hochul said.

She said she expects that number to continue to rise, particularly in upstate communities.

"It is still putting too much stress on our hospitals," Hochul said.

The state's Public Health and Health Planning Council at a Tuesday meeting approved Hochul's proposed regulation to mandate boosters for healthcare workers. Those regulations will become effective once filed with the state's Department of State.

Once effective, all health care workers subject to the state's current vaccine mandate will have to receive a COVID-19 booster dose within two weeks of becoming eligible, unless they have a valid medical exemption.

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