Could this be a positive sign that progress is being made?  After two years of directing the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Douglas County Public Health Department is shifting gears into how they confront the virus locally.

As cases rose during the omicron variant and serious, significant effects didn't, it became apparent that it was time for a change in the approach.  Since the beginning, most of county's health efforts sought to provide contact tracing - essentially tracing the path of the virus person-to-person, providing both notifications and resources along the way.

That approach is no longer "realistic" according to health officials.  In an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], Douglas County Public Health Officer Kathy Ronchi explains:

"More than 1,500 people tested positive by PCR and rapid antigen tests in Douglas County in the last two weeks.  The current high volume of COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant has made keeping up with individual contact tracing interviews for every positive case an unrealistic goal."

To keep up with the virus and the high number of low-impact cases, the county is following state guidelines.  Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently started encouraging local health departments to "redirect resources to high-impact activities".

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For Douglas County, that re-direction won't be much different from some of the outreach it's been doing all along.  They'll spend time and resources "prioritizing vaccination efforts, community testing, education, and outreach to slow the transmission".  The one omission will be the contact tracing process with the interviews and name collecting.

Part of Wisconsin's shift - and locally, Douglas County's - is born out of what's happening at the national level. Recently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully-approved the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for people 18 and older.  That approval follows on the heels of last fall's full approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

Douglas County, WI government office building
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

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