On Wednesday, the Dubuque County Board of Health voted to support a proposal from the Dubuque County Public Health Incident Management Team to suspend contact tracing efforts for positive COVID-19 cases.

By Iowa Code, the Dubuque Community School District cannot engage in contact tracing and investigation without the involvement of a public health agency. Currently, the district contact traces as an extension of the Dubuque County Health Department / Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) and, as such, will also suspend contact tracing in schools.

The district’s protocols for those who test positive for COVID-19 or those with symptoms of illness have not changed.

In place of contact-tracing efforts, the Dubuque Incident Management Team will increase promotion of quarantine and isolation guidance as well as the Dubuque County COVID-19 “hotline” for questions and support.

The team’s recommendation follows recent decisions by other Iowa counties to suspend contact tracing, including Linn County and Johnson County, and is based on the increased level of community spread of COVID and the increased difficulty in reaching positive individuals.

Additional reasons cited by the incident management team include:

  • A delay in information sharing and reporting by state public health with local public health which prevents contact during the first 24-48 hours after diagnosis, the most critical period for spread.
  • An increasing percentage of contact tracing calls to residents by Dubuque County Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) staff that go unanswered.
  • New testing options like rapid at-home tests that are reducing the number of positive cases reported to public health, preventing contact tracing with these individuals.

The district, and schools throughout Dubuque County, are also experiencing these issues and support the change.