RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Health is changing how it conducts contact tracing amid a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant.

Now, the VDH will not investigate every case of COVID-19 and trace all contacts of that person. Instead, they will focus on following up on outbreaks and cases in high-risk settings.

Public health staff will work to investigate clusters of cases in long-term care facilities, other “congregate settings,” health care settings and more. Follow-up will be primarily with people who are most at-risk of negative health impacts from COVID-19.

VDH will also continue to work with K-12 schools on strategies to prevent the spread in educational settings.

“This response is more effective when a virus spreads very easily and quickly and many infected people do not have symptoms,” the VDH wrote in a news release Tuesday.

Vaccines have been helpful in reducing the severity of many coronavirus cases as omicron spreads, the VDH said. However, there have still been a high number of cases, which is putting stress on the health care system in Virginia.

“COVID-19 continues to spread across the Commonwealth in high volumes, and Virginians should act  quickly when illness is suspected. Please get tested, stay home when you are infectious, and notify your contacts,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH.

Despite the change in statewide COVID-19 contact tracing efforts, the VDH said residents should still make sure they take “appropriate actions” if they suspect or confirm a COVID-19 infection — that includes notifying their close contacts and using Virginia’s COVIDWISE app.

VDH’s contact tracing program helped manage the pandemic when treatments and vaccines weren’t yet available. The program’s staff completed more than  750,000 case investigations, notified over 400,000 close contacts, and responded to over 6,500 outbreaks. 

Virginians who have not been fully vaccinated, or are eligible for booster doses, can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (877) 829-4682 to find nearby vaccination clinics.

Those seeking to find or schedule a testing appointment can visit vase.vdh.virginia.gov/testingappointment.