The Herman Trend Alert
May 20, 2020
Contact Tracing: the Key to Stopping the COVID Spread
As many areas of the country begin to open restaurants, bars, hair salons, tattoo parlors, and other retail establishments, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines stipulate the establishment of a cadre of a minimum of 30 contact tracers per 1000 residents. This Herman Trend Alert is another in the series designed to give you trusted information regarding every aspect of this disease pandemic we are living through together.
What is Contact Tracing?
Contact tracers are basically healthcare detectives. Contact tracing prevents the spread of COVID-19 by immediately interviewing patients who have tested positive, determining their close contacts, and alerting those contacts to the risk of infection. Typically, that kind of close contact means having been within 6 feet of the positive person for more than 10 minutes. Then the healthcare detectives instruct those contacts to quarantine or isolate themselves for 14 days, to prevent the spread COVID-19 to others. Finally, the contact tracers monitor those contacts by text throughout the duration of their quarantine or isolation to discover if the contacts are showing any symptoms. Plus, other members of the tracing team will also work with traced individuals who need social services assistance, like housing, food, or medicine, while they are quarantined or isolated. In other countries, people who need to be quarantined are often separated from their families in hotels or other subsidized lodging.
Successful Models in the World
In an attempt to control their outbreaks, South Korea and New Zealand have aggressively used contact tracing to respond to COVID-19. Moreover, in South Korea, contact tracers combine patient interviews with cellphone GPS data, credit card transaction records, and surveillance camera footage. In Singapore, tracers use a mobile app that employs Bluetooth to log when people are close together and then uses the data to identify contacts after new cases are confirmed. In China, around 9,000 contact tracers were recruited in the Wuhan alone. In North America, the Canadian government launched a nationwide contact tracing program, which has engaged 27,000 volunteers. Apple and Google are working together to add optional software to their smartphones that would aid in contact tracing.
Limitations of Contact Tracing
First, contact tracing is labor-intensive and all of that interviewing and reaching out to contacts requires time. That is why contact tracing is most effective when the levels of infection in a community are low. Too many infections too quickly can easily overwhelm the health departments' responses because it is impossible to contact trace all the individuals who must be reached.
Keep Protecting Yourself
COVID-19 spreads through the air and the disease can get serious quickly. Wear a mask. Stay out of crowded places where it is impossible to stay 6-feet away from others. I have a light raincoat that I wear when I go shopping; my husband calls it my PPE, because I only wear it into the supermarket. Then after I arrive home, he disinfects it with a portable Ultraviolet light he purchased. We use the same device to disinfect every delivery we receive. Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds at a time. Keep your body healthy by eating well and be sure to get some Short-Wave Sleep (SWS)---only available between 10 pm and 1 am. The body uses SWS for repair and bolstering the immune system.
Exposure versus Illness
Semi-finally, I have recently discovered that merely being exposed to the virus slightly does not necessarily result in your becoming ill. Apparently, it is the "viral load"---the amount of virus to which you are exposed that seems to make the difference. The unknown is still just how much exposure pushes you into infection. However, knowing that fact has helped me to reduce my stress and fear of COVID. And finally, stay positive. We know that negative feelings have a detrimental effect on the immune system.
Special thanks to TIME Magazine and the State of New York for their coverage and insights.
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