Comprised of 24 tracers, 12 investigators and 12 trainees, the Bi-County Contact Tracing Team doesn’t let up.
The team operates seven days a week, trying to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 throughout the Yuba-Sutter area.
“Without the work of the tracing team, we would all live in a community where a person could come in close contact with a positive case and never know it, leaving this very dangerous virus to spread further into the community,” said Dr. Homer Rice, Yuba-Sutter COVID-19 response team leader. “Our numbers would be much higher today (without the team), and I have no doubt our hospital system would have been long-overwhelmed.”
For each positive case that is received, Rice said, the team begins the effort of contacting the infected individual to advise them of their test results.
“We use a scripted process to make sure each person understands what they need to do immediately to protect themselves and those who live in their households, which means quarantining in their own homes using a separate bedroom and bathroom from others who live there,” said Rice. “Then, we work with them to determine who they may have been in close contact with in the previous days.”
According to Rice, all of the people living with the infected individual will be instructed to get tested as well and, if necessary, all persons involved will be provided with a letter to their workplace to inform them that the individual has been isolated and cannot work until they are deemed non-infectious.
Rice said the team will follow up with the individuals at the end of the isolation period to verify that their symptoms have improved and that they are fever free without medication for at least twenty-four hours before being removed from isolation. Each of the phone calls can take about 30 to 60 minutes.
Next, Rice said the contact tracers call all of the individual’s non-household contacts, social contacts or work contacts and ask them to quarantine at home through the period when they are likely to come down with the disease while monitoring symptoms daily.
The team will follow up with those individuals, as well, at the end of their quarantine period to verify that they have not come down with COVID-19 symptoms.
Each person in the contact tracers room calls roughly 15-20 people each day, according to Rice.
While Rice said that most people who receive a call from the tracing team respond reasonably, agreeing to quarantine and providing pertinent information, the team also encounters frightened and angry residents who are less cooperative.
“They will scream, express themselves with colorful language and hang up, but our team still must pursue those conversations for the wellbeing of the community,” said Rice. “In some cases they do not want to name household contacts or give us information on their workplace. We are persistent and are usually able to obtain the information we need.”
Rice said while the team understands the dread of getting a call informing someone that they have tested positive for COVID-19, it is crucial to be as honest and cooperative as possible if contacted.
“The tracing team is simply interested in helping people with important information,” said Rice. “Those residents who talk to our tracers and investigators are helping to protect the health of others in our community.”