By Rachel Leingang, Alison Steinbach | Arizona Republic
Maricopa County public health officials aren’t conducting COVID-19 case investigations or contact tracing that meet federal guidelines, as cases in the county and state continue to rise and Arizona becomes a new national hotspot.
The county’s efforts to track cases rely on text messaging rather than direct phone calls for positive individuals. Those who test positive and receive a text are then asked to fill out a form that asks them to recall anyone they were in contact with rather than the county conducting a live interview.
Only about 20% of case investigations are being completed through this process, officials confirm. Those who don’t fill out the form receive a phone call from an investigator to complete the investigation and identify contacts.
The pared-down process has drawn criticism from U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz., who said it leaves people vulnerable. He questions why more federal money provided to the county for responding to the pandemic wasn’t committed to tracing efforts early on, before the major spike hit.
“The County squandered this precious time,” Stanton wrote. “It acted slowly and only ‘started’ to ‘gear up’ in early May — and for a level of staff that was far below what experts predicted would be necessary to safeguard a population the size of Maricopa County.”