Nov. 25, 2020: County Using New Software to Trace COVID-19


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Dear UM Community,


As you know, COVID-19 cases are rising in many areas of the state, including Missoula County. With this rapid increase in cases, Missoula City-County Health Department has an incredible amount of work and, understandably, there is currently a backlog of casework.


You may recall that there are three “phases” of management of COVID-19 cases: First, case investigators conduct interviews of positive cases in isolation to identify close contacts to positive cases. Second, contact tracers notify close contacts and issue quarantine orders, and third, case managers monitor those in isolation and quarantine to see that medical questions or concerns are addressed, etc.


MCCHD estimates it’s currently about a week behind for case investigation and contact tracing for COVID-19 due to the surge in new cases. They continue to recruit and hire contract tracers and others to manage the backlog of new cases as well as manage existing cases. Given the current delays, it remains extremely important to limit your circle of contacts and to employ all of the known public health precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community.


Over the past week, MCCHD has implemented Sara Alert, a secure monitoring and reporting system for public health. As described on the website, “Public health departments can use Sara Alert™ to monitor individuals diagnosed with or at risk for COVID-19 (or other infectious disease), enabling real-time insights and increased reporting capability for early containment of the virus. The tool allows individuals to report daily symptoms through web, text, email and phone calls providing public health departments with real-time insights. Sara Alert™ serves as a force multiplier that supports governmental public health response to emerging disease threats that may include active monitoring and home isolation for disease containment or mitigation. It allows public health resources to be directed where they are most needed.”


MCCHD sees Sara Alert as an important tool to improve efficiency and manage the growing COVID-19 caseload in Missoula County. Using Sara Alert, MCCHD expects to be able to address the current backlog of casework and return to its previous capability to complete case investigation and contact tracing within 24-48 hours. As you know, rapid identification and quarantine of close contacts is vital to reducing community transmission of COVID-19.


But any system relies on a responsive public. Sara Alert will still require you to answer phone calls, texts and emails as soon as possible.


Together, we’ve worked hard to keep UM COVID-19 cases low. Let’s do all we can to ensure successful implementation of Sara Alert and continue to work together to lower campus cases and community transmission.


UM COVID Response Team (CRT)
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