Contact tracing helps healthcare workers identify people who have been exposed to COVID

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Contact tracing. Two words we are hearing a lot about, but many don’t know exactly how it works.

The area health department is in charge of conducting the tracing.

Here’s how it works. After someone tests positive for COVID-19, that person is interviewed about where he or she has been and who he or she has been around over the prior 14 days.

Once the patient provides those names and locations, those places and people are notified of their contact with the disease.

Depending on their exposure level, some contacts will be required to quarantine according to Matt Hunt, the director of the Barren River District Health Department.

“If someone is a high risk, say they live in the household, they are a household contact and they are symptomatic, they would be in isolation or quarantine for the 10 days,” said Matt Hunt.

Contact tracing has been done for many other kinds of communicable diseases in the past.

“Contact tracing is nothing new for public health. We do it for anyone with a communicable disease. You think about doing it for someone if they have Hepatitis A or pertussis or HIV, things of that nature. We are accustomed to doing contact tracing in public health,” Hunt said.

“It helps us quickly identify those people who have had contact with patients so that they can isolate early, be monitoring themselves for symptoms and identifying and reporting to public health or their physician so that they can be tested and treated appropriately,” said Jennifer Hunt, TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital’s director of infection prevention.

Hunt also assures the health department is not tracking cell phones to find out where you have been.

“The key to contact tracing is to answer the phone when we do call from the local health department and so if you are a contact, you can be quarantined or be put into isolation to stop the spread of the coronavirus,” Hunt said.