Health department provides resources to community, adjusts how it communicates to people who test positive for COVID-19 


Amidst rising COVID-19 cases in the county and across the U.S., Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) is adjusting its COVID-19 case investigation process “to utilize staff and resources most effectively.” 

These changes focus on how the health department approaches connecting with people who have tested positive for, or those who have been exposed to, COVID-19. 

 Previously, case investigators called every individual impacted by COVID-19. While FCHD will continue to contact people who test positive, it is changing how these individuals are approached. 

 “Now, these resources will focus first on people who live and work in congregate settings such as long-term care facilities or group homes; children who are in school or other childcare settings, and people who are infected as part of an outbreak,” its blog states. These cases will receive a full case and contact investigation, according to the website. 

 For scenarios that are considered lower risk, the individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be notified via text message. 

 “The text will alert the individual that they have been reported to the Fairfax County Health Department as COVID-19 positive and must isolate for 10 days,” according to the health department’s blog. 

 The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new isolation and quarantine guidance December 27, but as of publication time, the county had not changed its website to reflect the changes. CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to five days, if asymptomatic, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others. Since science is showing the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for five days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for five days to minimize the risk of infecting others. 

A list of online resources for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people who test positive is available on FCHD’s website. Resources include guidance on isolation, as well as how to inform those with whom they have been in close contact. 

“Throughout the entire pandemic, we have continued to adapt to meet the needs of our community,” said Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu. “With the recent surge and high burden of COVID-19 cases, we must once again pivot to work as efficiently as possible in how we investigate cases. We appreciate the community’s continued support.”

While changes are being made to the case investigation process, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be asked to complete wellness checks through the Sara Alert system — which send these checks through email or text so people can report their symptoms — whether they are in higher or lower risk scenarios. 

As the Omicron variant becomes more prominent, the health department noted that the same “strategies that have proved effective in preventing infection against the Delta variant are still effective against Omicron.”

 Officials noted in the blog that these strategies include getting vaccinated, including the booster dose, and continuing to wear a mask in public indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status. 

 For those looking to get a test, Fairfax County Public Libraries (FCPL) has currently run out of tests — the county recommends calling the local branch to ensure they are there. FCPL receives the tests directly from the Virginia Department of Health, according to Lucy Caldwell, the director of communications for FCHD.   

 Aside from resources available to those suffering from COVID-19, the county keeps track of the individuals affected through its COVID-19 dashboard, which details case information. 

As of Dec. 28, over 111,000 people (including confirmed and probable cases) have tested positive for COVID-19 in Fairfax County, and 4,262 people have been hospitalized. 

“Hospitalization data reflects those individuals who were known to be hospitalized during their illness. This information was gathered either through the Health Department’s case investigation or was reported to public health by the hospital. Some individuals may still be in the hospital and others may already be discharged,” Caldwell said. 

 The health department does not track information on hospital capacity, according to Caldwell. 

 “The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association has a COVID-19 dashboard which reports on hospital capacity data,” she said. 

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