ABC News Corona Virus Health and Science

Contact tracing for COVID-19 maxed out in Colorado

"We can't make a dent," one local health official said.

Colorado's contact tracing capacity is tapped out, according to local health departments.

"Right now, we have about 1,400 cases or contacts of cases waiting to be reached out to," Christine Billings, the emergency preparedness and response coordinator for Jefferson County Public Health told ABC Denver affiliate KMGH-TV.

Earlier in the pandemic, tracers were able to reach out to people who were potentially exposed to COVID-19 within 24 hours. The backlog means tracers are only able to connect with 1 out of every 4 case contacts who have been exposed to the virus.

"We can't make a dent," Billings said.

While previously tracers reached 10 to 20 people for every positive case, now they reach two.

On Nov. 5, several local health departments in Colorado, including Jefferson County's, sent a letter to the state outlining their concern.

"Cases are increasing at an alarming rate," they wrote. "Contact tracing and investigation capacity is tapped."

As of Nov. 19, new cases, testing positivity rate, hospitalizations and deaths all were rising in Colorado, according to an ABC News analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project. So far, 176,694 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Colorado and 2,324 have died of the virus, according to the state health department.

ABC News' Soorin Kim, Brian Hartman, Benjamin Bell and Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.

What to know about the coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the U.S. and worldwide: Coronavirus map
  • Tune into ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live at 4 p.m. ET every weekday for special coverage of the novel coronavirus with the full ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.