Johnson County scales up COVID-19 contact tracing staff in public health department as Iowa’s cases steadily increase


Lily Smith

The Johnson County Health and Human Services building at 855 South Dubuque Street.

Sarah Watson, Managing Editor

Johnson County Public Health has expanded its disease-investigation staff to conduct contact tracing of coronavirus cases in anticipation of an increase in cases. The department now has four individuals and three additional staff — all internal staff — Johnson County Community Health Manager Sam Jarvis said during a press conference Tuesday.

Contact tracing involves gathering information on the person with COVID-19, including people the person had come into close contact with, such as family members.

“This addition of staff and increasing our capacity through other technological means to contact the public and collect information on those who’ve tested positive allows us to continue our commitment to investigate, follow up with cases, and identify close contacts and develop recommendations to prevent the further transmission,” Jarvis said.

The State Hygienic Lab continues to give updates throughout the day to the Johnson County Public Health Department through the disease surveillance system, he said.

The department’s contact tracing doesn’t always spill into other counties however, Jarvis said. He said the Johnson County Public Health Department may contact someone who commutes to another county for work, but will leave most out-of-county cases to other county public health departments and coordinate with the state health department.

Eastern Iowa counties have some of the most cases in the state. Johnson and Linn counties have the most coronavirus cases, with Johnson making up just over 10 percent of the state’s cases. Two hundred and sixteen people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Johnson County and two people have died. In neighboring Linn County, an outbreak within a Cedar Rapids long-term care facility is connected to 16 deaths.

A pork plant, Tyson, in Columbus Junction also had an outbreak, spurring a doubling of coronavirus cases in Louisa County in one day. Louisa County, which has a partial border with Johnson County to the south, has 145 total positive cases.