Understanding Contact Tracing
Since last March, the public has become increasingly familiar with the meaning behind COVID-19 terms, such as “social distancing” and “self-quarantine.” While some of those terms are more familiar, the benefits of “contact tracing” may not be as well understood. To help us better understand this process and how it aids in preventing the spread of COVID-19, we’ve enlisted CTEH’s scientific experts.
First, what is contact tracing?
Contact tracing is a process to stop the chain of transmission of an infectious disease. It has been used since the 20th century to stop transmission of a wide array of diseases like syphillis, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and SARS. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommended using contact tracing to alert potentially exposed individuals or “close contacts,” to self-quarantine and stop the spread of the virus.
Who is considered a close contact?
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a close contact as anyone within six feet of a laboratory-confirmed or probable COVID-19 infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more throughout a day. This includes individuals wearing masks. The CDC strongly recommends all close contacts self-quarantine for 14 days.
In general, what steps does contact tracing include?
First, a COVID-19 case is identified and contacted by a state or local public health official for an interview to identify persons potentially exposed or “close contacts”. Then the case enters case management where they are monitored daily by check-ins with a state or local public health official. After the interview, close contacts to the case are notified and told to self-quarantine.
How does CTEH do contact tracing differently?
Traditional contact tracing is clunky and often puts people in quarantine unnecessarily since COVID-19 cases and close contacts are not always identified properly. CTEH Contact Tracing emphasizes worker safety, while maintaining business continuity, by ensuring those exposed or potentially exposed to SARS-COV-2 are removed from the workplace and those not exposed are cleared and allowed to work.
The CTEH Contact Tracing Team is staffed with trained contact tracers, nurses, epidemiologists, and occupational health physicians. The team has dedicated hotlines monitored by trained staff 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The program can be tailored to the industry, client, and even to the specific locations through customized interviews.
As part of our process, CTEH contact tracers interview COVID-19 cases, their potential close contacts, and persons on the ground working in the same areas to better identify risks and validate stories. Our skilled interviewers ask questions about tasks performed, areas worked, areas traversed, and activities inside and outside of the workplace to identify close contacts and better quantify the risk of exposure. Nurses on the CTEH contact tracing team follow cases through their isolation periods and provide guidance on keeping family members safe and when to seek medical care. Contact tracers follow close contacts in quarantine to provide guidance on how to self-quarantine safely, track the onset of any symptoms, and to identify when testing is needed. As an added benefit, our multi-disciplinary Contact Tracing Team works through each situation on a case by case basis and seeks advice from our occupational nurses, physicians, and epidemiologists, since every case is unique. CTEH also offers onsite safety representatives to monitor the health and safety of your workforce and assist with boots on the ground support when contact tracing is needed.
Our CTEH Contact Tracing Team uses a proprietary contact tracing program developed to track outbreak investigations from cases to second degree contacts. In the event a close contact to a case develops symptoms (in the appropriate time window), the information has already been collected to remove exposed individuals quickly. This program stores all relevant work-related COVID-19 contact tracing information on secure servers to help ensure information availability, data integrity and confidentiality.
Is your workplace in need of contact tracing? CTEH offers a secure digital system with expert oversight from medical physicians, registered nurses, certified occupational health nurses, medical technicians, certified industrial hygienist (CIH) professionals, health scientists, epidemiologists, and an in-house data team. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Any scientific or medical information included in this article is current as of the date of publication; however, public health knowledge of COVID-19 is rapidly developing. Readers are advised to monitor national, state and local public health agencies for current recommendations regarding any infectious disease.