Contact tracing is an important step in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing is a disease-control measure and a patient support system used by public health to fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Asymptomatic people who don’t look or feel sick can spread the virus.
“Our goal is to slow the spread, especially to our vulnerable populations, by figuring out who has the virus and who they may have exposed during the time they were possibly infectious,” Dr. Steven Meister, chief medical officer, Avera Marshall.
When a person tests positive, they can expect a call from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) or MDH representative, usually within 24 hours of being notified by their health care provider.
It is extremely important for people to answer the phone when the contact tracer calls. Contact tracers will never ask for a social security number, bank account or credit card information.
Tracers work with patients to identify symptoms, provide education and pinpoint any close contacts.
What follows are some things to think about prior to their call:
• What symptoms are you experiencing and when did they begin?
• Do you have underlying conditions? (diabetes, asthma, heart disease, etc.)
• Do you know where you were exposed? Have you had contact with a COVID-19 case?
• Who have you been in close contact with (within six feet for 15 minutes or more) starting two days before your symptoms started? Begin gathering their names and contact information, if possible. A contact tracer will then inform close contacts of their potential exposure as rapidly and sensitively as possible.
Close contacts are provided with information and support to understand their risk including what they should do to separate themselves from others, how to monitor themselves for illness and explain the possibility that they could still be infectious, even if they do not feel ill.
Contacts are encouraged to isolate in their home for 14 days after their last exposure and monitor their symptoms, including taking their temperature twice daily and watching for other symptoms like cough/shortness of breath, chills and loss of taste/smell. Contacts who develop symptoms should promptly isolate themselves and notify their health care provider.
“Contact tracing is just one step in mitigating the effects of this virus. We need the communities’ help. We can do a better job notifying those who may have been exposed if we get accurate and timely information from those who are called,” said Carol Biren, public health director for Southwest Health and Human Services.
For more information, go to www.health.state.mn.us.
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