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Once Texas' 'Most Important Tool' Against COVID-19, State Abandons Contact Tracing

McKINNEY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - As of Wednesday, Sept. 1, Texas will no longer be allowed to do contact tracing for COVID-19.

Overnight, the Texas Department of State Health Services removed an FAQ page on the practice referring to it as "the oldest, most utilized, and most important tool public health uses to manage infectious diseases."

The new state budget, which took effect September 1, prohibits the use of state funds "for the purpose of contact tracing of COVID-19."

Last year, Governor Greg Abbott announced a plan to hire 4,000 contact tracers to quickly identify and alert Texans who might have been exposed to the virus.

He later faced criticism and a lawsuit over then $295 million contract awarded to a small Frisco company.

A DSHS spokesperson said the agency was operating a contact tracing call center to support areas requesting assistance, but it was "winding down" Tuesday due to the budget's restriction on funding any contact tracing.

With the state no longer involved in contact tracing, the work is now left to local health departments, but many lack the staffing to be able to do it.

Some have abandoned the effort altogether.

A Collin County spokesperson wrote, "The county has not performed contact tracing or case investigations since June 1, 2020 when DSHS took over."

The county's health department gave a slightly different answer, saying it had staffing limitations, but prioritized investigations of outbreaks at facilities, such as long term care facilities or schools.

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