“Thanks for giving me your cold!”
If you’ve ever had someone say that to you, you know what happens next. You start thinking about 1) if that’s true; and 2) where you got your cold in the first place.
That, in a nutshell, is what contact tracing is all about.
It’s just that right now, thanks to COVID-19, contact tracing is a lot bigger and more complex job than wondering where you got your cold. Contact tracing is being used worldwide to help close the loop on the coronavirus.
It’s like chasing a phantom—you cannot see it, but you know it’s there.
Contact tracing goes back—way back—to the time of the bubonic plague. Even then, physicians were looking for patient zero—and all of the people that person had been in contact with. Contact tracing has been used successfully since that time to help stop plagues such as yellow fever, measles, Ebola, Spanish flu, and syphilis (formerly known as the pox in the Middle Ages).
Right now, in California, Governor Newsom has amassed a workforce of 10,000 tracers—including nearly 140 DCA staff—to help chase down the invisible virus. Think about it; if you could see it, it would be easy to find and way easier to stop. That’s why tracers are calling people and asking for their help. You could be carrying the virus and not even know it; wouldn’t you want to know?
But now, just like in ancient times, people are not cooperating with contact tracers when they call. The questions are too Big Brother-like. Someone—family, friends, coworkers—will find out.
Guess what? It’s all confidential. Riverside County Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari explained in a recent interview with The Sun that personal information is not shared with other governmental agencies, and contact tracers keep identities strictly confidential. She said they are merely trying to find out who may have been exposed so they can warn those people and encourage them to get tested and quarantine themselves. “We would never tell them who the source of the exposure is,” she said.
Here’s the basic contact tracing process from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
- Interview people with COVID-19 to identify everyone they had close contact with during the time they may have been infectious
- Notify contacts of their potential exposure
- Refer contacts for testing
- Monitor contacts for signs and symptoms of COVID-19
- Connect contacts with services they might need during the self-quarantine period
Sound simple? It is.
It’s not a conspiracy. It’s not some clandestine operation. You won’t be sent to a FEMA camp.
The next time you get a call from an unknown number, answer it. It may save your life or the life of a loved one or friend. Right now, we are all fighting an invisible phantom and information is the only way to help put a stop to it.
To find out more about contact tracing in California, or to volunteer to be a contact tracer, visit California Connected.