As we venture out we will need contact tracing

Column by Andrea W. Doray
Posted 7/22/20

My fervent hope for the next few weeks is that I don’t get a call from a 970 prefix, Steamboat Springs specifically. We recently took a road trip there to enjoy cycling along the Yampa River and …

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As we venture out we will need contact tracing

Posted

My fervent hope for the next few weeks is that I don’t get a call from a 970 prefix, Steamboat Springs specifically.

We recently took a road trip there to enjoy cycling along the Yampa River and some social-distanced outdoor dining. I have to say, Routt County has it going on: everyone was required – even before the state-wide mandate – to wear masks indoors and in some outdoor situations. At lunch, if you got up from the table for whatever reason, you needed your mask. Nobody seemed particularly upset, and social distancing was well-observed.

What struck me most about this visit, however, was that every place we went, one of us was asked to provide a first or a last name, and a phone number … not for reservations, though, because we were already at our destinations.

I didn’t realize at first why this was happening, but then it dawned on me: if someone in the establishment tested positive for “the Rona,” those of us who were there at the time would receive notice that we had potentially been exposed. This is called contact tracing.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to interrupt the disease spread, contact tracing identifies both the people who have the virus and the other people they came in contact with. This includes, of course, asking people with Covid-19 to isolate themselves, as well as asking their contacts to quarantine at home voluntarily.

Here’s how it works: contact tracing for involves 1) interviewing people who test positive to identify everyone they had close contact with during the time they may have been infectious, 2) notifying contacts of this potential exposure, and 3) referring such contacts for testing.

To prevent further spread of the disease, these contacts are encouraged to stay home and maintain social distance from others until 14 days after their last exposure. During this time, health officials help monitor contacts for signs and symptoms, and connect them with services they might need during the self-quarantine period.

For the people who are identified as coronavirus-positive, self-isolation is critical and means staying at home in a specific room away from other people (and even pets, according to the CDC!) and using a separate bathroom, if possible.

By the way, names of infected persons are not revealed to those they may have exposed, even if these people ask.

My personal guess about contact tracing from our recent excursion is that managers at dining establishments would be most likely to know when someone on their staff tests positive, rather than a guest … unless they were notified as part of contact tracing from another source, such as a local resident or someone else who remembers being there.

In addition to the obvious reason why contact tracing is so important – slowing the spread of this debilitating and often deadly disease – I believe businesses want to maintain their reputations as clean and safe establishments. Contact tracing identifies both sources and contacts to help eliminate business-busting outbreaks.

Identifying infected persons and notifying contacts help keep us, our families, and our communities safer. So, please, maintain social distance, wear a mask, and wash, wash, wash your hands.

To your health!

Andrea Doray is a writer who is glad it’s summertime and socially distant outdoor dining is accessible. Contact Andrea at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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