Contact Tracing – An Effort to Contain COVID-19

Contact tracing sounds like an overwhelming task. Could you name every single person you were in contact with over the past 14 days? Did you go to work, the grocery store, the post office? Can you remember the dates and times?

Bill Ours, Hardy County Health Department Administrator and Registered Nurse Marie Kessel explained the process.

“All positive test results must be reported to the Health Department,” Ours said. “That starts the contact tracing. If it’s reported to us that you tested positive, we will call you and ask you who you’ve been in direct contact with over the last 14 days.”

Ours explained that “direct contact” is defined as less than six feet, for more than 10 minutes without proper Personal Protection Equipment. That means the people you met casually at the post office and grocery store probably don’t count, especially if you wore a mask while out in public.

“We’re usually talking about people in the same house or people in the same workplace, unless you’ve been practicing social distancing or wearing PPEs at work,” he said.

Those “direct contacts” will be tested and if they test positive, will be counted as such in the state and local numbers. Keep in mind, not everyone who tests positive will develop symptoms.

Once that list is developed, a representative will call those people and ask who they have been in direct contact with. Unless the original contact person develops symptoms, these people will not be tested.

“Now, your direct contacts will be required to quarantine for 14 days,” Ours said. “If it’s someone living in your house, their quarantine will not begin until yours is finished. You could have passed it on to them on day 13 of your quarantine.”

Kessel thanked all the people wearing masks or some kind of face covering, but requested they wear them properly.

“The mask needs to cover the nose and mouth,” she said. “It defeats the purpose if it only covers one or the other.”