Contact Tracing

 

Last updated 1/11/2021 at 10:47am



After Thanksgiving, Borrego Springs experienced a surge that peaked at 39 active COVID-19 cases. As of December 28, the case load had decreased to 24 active cases. If you would like to track active cases in Borrego Springs, the information is updated daily at https://accesshealthborrego.org/coronavirus/cases-surrounding-borrego-springs/.

Most residents have been wearing masks inside public buildings and staying six feet or more from others when outside their homes. After the Stay-At-Home Public Health Order became effective, many of us have avoided gathering with people who are not members of our household. This has helped and, hopefully, we will not have a big post-Christmas/New Year’s surge. There is one more important thing we can do to protect ourselves, our family, friends and our community from COVID-19. We can respond to contact tracers if called by the County.


The HHSA County Department of Public Health’s contact tracing program is described in detail below. We will be safer engaging in activities outside our homes if more infected and exposed people work with the County’s contact tracers. Those infected would isolate for 10 days and those exposed would quarantine for 7 to 10 days. While waiting for enough of us to be vaccinated to end this pandemic, we could feel confident that few infected people would be circulating among us. With fewer infected people circulating, we will have fewer new cases to manage so the contact tracers will be more effective. Also with fewer cases in circulation, the vaccine will help us reach herd immunity more quickly. Sounds good, doesn’t it?


Contact Tracing

Article below is courtesy of the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

Contact tracing is part of a three-tiered strategy the County of San Diego is using to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Until distribution of the Coronavirus vaccine is widespread, it remains a key component, along with testing and treatment, of the County’s efforts to reduce the spread of the virus and protect community health.

Contract tracing requires outreach, usually a phone call, to those who have been in close contact with a COVID-positive patient.

This early notification of exposure helps cut down on the spread of the virus, letting people know they have been exposed and should quarantine until cleared under public health guidance.

If you get a call from a number you do not recognize, do not automatically ignore it. The person on the other end could be calling from County Public Health Services to tell you you’ve been exposed to COVID-19.

The County has been doing contact tracing of positive COVID-19 cases in the region since May. The disease investigative response team consists of more than 1,100 employees, of which about 400 are dedicated to contact tracing.

Since May 4, the team has investigated more than 87,340 close contacts in cases where tracing activities were initiated.

Early on, nearly 85% of these close contacts were associated with the same household as a confirmed case. As people began to move more freely around the community, and with the Thanksgiving travel and gatherings, the percentage associated with households has declined to 74 percent.

Tracers need to identify and engage with close contacts of a positive case immediately and make sure they do not interact with others. This is critical to protect communities from further spread of the virus.

What a Contact Tracer Needs to Know

When a confirmed case is investigated by Public Health staff, the investigator works with the case to identify all close contacts who may have been exposed. Contact tracers take it from there and attempt to get in touch with all these contacts so that they can be self-quarantined at home and monitored for symptoms of COVID-19.

If you test positive for COVID-19, your doctor or another health official will let you know. A positive case must be reported to County Public Health Services so that each confirmed case can be used to help in identifying others who may have been exposed. Contact tracing can start the process of reaching out to the close contacts.

“When a contact tracer calls you, it is important that you answer because immediate action is needed,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer.

If you do not answer, the contact tracer should leave a voicemail message. Call the contact tracer back because they need to know that you have isolated yourself and who you have had close contact with.

The contact tracer will identify themselves as being part of the County and all information gathered during the contact tracing effort is kept confidential. The goal is developing trust and a partnership with the contact to fight the virus together and slow the spread.

What to Do if You’ve Been Exposed to COVID-19

Tracers call those who were a close contact with a person with COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a close contact is someone who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before symptoms developed in the case and until the time the patient is isolated.

If you are placed under self-quarantine, this is what you will be asked to do:

- Stay home for 10 days

- Maintain physical distance from others who were not exposed

- Monitor yourself for symptoms

- Do not share utensils, cups or glasses

- Use good hand hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water

“We now know that people without symptoms can spread COVID-19. That’s why it’s important that people who were exposed to someone with the virus stay home and away from others,” Dr. Wooten said.

If you are identified as a close contact and develop symptoms, you should immediately isolate yourself and notify your case manager and your doctor to get care and testing if needed. If you do not have a place to isolate or quarantine, the county will provide lodging accommodations.

Until our county achieves herd immunity in vaccine distribution, which is roughly 70 percent or more of the population being vaccinated, contact tracing will remain an important activity to fight the spread of COVID-19 in our region.

– Borrego Springs COVID-19 Task Force

Supported by the Borrego Valley Endowment Fund

(While the pandemic continues, the Borrego Springs COVID-19 Task Force will create a newsletter bi-weekly on a topic relevant to residents of Borrego Springs. In this issue the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) describes its contact tracing program. Future issues will cover the vaccines and vaccination process, etc. The Borrego Sun has graciously offered to publish the newsletter, so our thanks to the Sun!

* Local volunteers with expertise and experience in epidemiology, healthcare, leading civic organizations and managing businesses – supported by the Borrego Valley Endowment Fund)