Application of COVIDTracer to Inform Public Health Workforce Planning in Alaska During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused social and economic disruption worldwide and spurred numerous mitigation strategies, including state investments in training a large contact tracing and case investigation workforce. A team at the University of Alaska Anchorage evaluated implementation of the COVID-19 contact tracing and case investigation program of the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, Section of Public Health Nursing. As part of that evaluation, the team used COVIDTracer, a spreadsheet modeling tool. COVIDTracer generated projections of COVID-19 case counts that informed estimates of workforce needs and case prioritization strategies. Case count projections approximated the reported epidemiologic curve with a median 7% difference in the first month. The accuracy of case count predictions declined after 1 month with a median difference of 80% in the second month. COVIDTracer inputs included previous case counts, the average length of time for telephone calls to cases and outreach to identified contacts, and the average number of contacts per case. As each variable increased, so too did estimated workforce needs. Decreasing the average time from exposure to outreach from 10 to 5 days reduced case counts estimated by COVIDTracer by approximately 93% during a 5-month period. COVIDTracer estimates informed Alaska's workforce planning and decisions about prioritizing case investigation during the pandemic. Lessons learned included the importance of being able to rapidly scale up and scale down workforce to adjust to a dynamic crisis and the limitations of prediction modeling (eg, that COVIDTracer was accurate for only about 1 month into the future). These findings may be useful for future pandemic preparedness planning and other public health emergency response activities.
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