Answer the phone: You may have come in contact with someone positive for COVID-19

Posted at 6:16 AM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 06:16:54-04

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. — Contact tracing is something we’ve been hearing throughout this Coronavirus pandemic

First off, contact tracing has been around for a long time now in public health but you probably just never heard about it unless you or someone you know was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

It’s a way to identify who is at risk for exposure to an infectious disease agent and the Kent County Health Department says recently they’ve been busy.

Here’s how it works, when the Kent County Health Department gets notified of a COVID-19 case they call the person and ask them a series of questions about when symptoms started and then look into the 48 hours prior to when those started. They also ask who they’ve been in contact with physically but also if they were in an area for 15 minutes or more with six feet or less in between them and other people.

Once those specifics are determined a monitoring team made up of trained volunteers from the community make the secondary calls to anyone who may have been exposed and recommend to them to stay in quarantine for 14 days and then they follow up with them again to make sure they have stayed asymptomatic.

"You know, I think that sometimes people don't trust the government, what we're doing, when we're calling them and asking them for some pretty sensitive information, right? We're asking them to provide information on their close contacts, friends and family members that they don't always want to give up that information. So, we've dealt with that. We've dealt with some situations where I think people don't want to, you know, indicate who they've been in close contact with, because they understand that those individuals will be quarantined or be recommended for quarantine for 14 days. And, and we understand that's a big impact on people if they know, they can't go to work and can't carry out the daily activities. You know, it's a big sacrifice that we're asking them to do,” says Brian Hartl, Supervising Epidemiologist Kent County Health Department.

If you miss a call or don’t pick it up because you think it’s a scam the investigators will leave a message and if that doesn’t work they will send a text letting them know the health department is trying to get a hold of them and if that doesn’t work than they will mail a letter and the person on the other end of the line should identify themselves as a contact tracer.

At this time the health department is set with volunteers but looking to train the initial contact tracers as many are starting to go back to their jobs and hoping to recruit within the Black and Latin community that are being hit the hardest.