County Implementing Contact Tracing 4/16

County health officials implement contact tracing to help prevent spread of COVID-19

MEDFORD, Ore. — As coronavirus cases spread throughout communities,  county public health departments are tasked with figuring out who coronavirus patients have been in contact with. The process is called contact tracing. While the term may be new to the public, health workers are familiar with this kind of detective work. “We’re depending on people to be truthful and honest, that’s how these investigations work,” Public Health Clinic Manager, Stacey Gregg said.

The term contact tracing is being used more and more, as public health officials work with the community to stop the spread of coronavirus. “We talk to them about when they became ill, and then we really get into the details about who they were in contact with when they were symptomatic, and also the 48 hours prior to developing symptoms,” Gregg said.

Public health officials then reach out directly by phone.

“We will actually call those contacts and talk to them about their risk for COVID-19 if they have any symptoms and what they should do if they develop symptoms,” Gregg said.

Public health clinic manager Stacey Gregg has a team of eight people at Jackson County Public Health. For them, even though working from home is new, the work is familiar.

“We actually do contact tracing for most of our communicable disease cases, so doing it for corona or covid19 isn’t really out of the norm for us. It’s what we typically do,” Gregg said.

The work is important, Gregg said, but it can be misunderstood. Community spread isn’t what many think.

“When we’re thinking about community spread, we look specifically at close contact. That’s actually defined as contacting someone within six feet of someone for over an hour,” Gregg said.

Gregg and her team aren’t looking at brief interactions in the community like exchanging money with a cashier.

“COVID-19 is not as communicable as say measles where we would put information out about where those persons had been,” Gregg said. Apple and Google announced a partnership last week on a contact tracing app for cell phones. They say the joint effort will help the government and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus.