Today we're talking about Contact Tracing and why this is the most effective way to slow the spread of the Coronavirus (other than masks, of course).
I know you're all paying attention to those numbers; how many cases we have a day and how many deaths we have a day. Those numbers are not painting the whole picture of what's going on in El Paso.
I didn't know much about Contact Tracing because when I tested positive, nobody called me. So, I called El Paso Public Health in anticipation of this post and asked, "why didn't I get a call from a Contact Tracer?" They looked up my name and date of birth. I'm not in the system.
I tested positive 22 days ago.
How many other people went to CVS, Walgreens, a private clinic, or an Urgent Care? Those numbers are not being reported to El Paso Public Health in a timely fashion, or at all.
Most of the numbers that we're seeing are from the testing sites (city, county) and hospitals.
Why is Contact Tracing so important?
Two days before you have symptoms, you're what's called a "super spreader." If you're positive, and in the same room with another person who's negative, both in masks, together for 15 minutes, and less than 6 feet apart, that's a "high risk situation."
What's a Contact Tracer's job?
If you're positive, a Contact Tracer gives you an isolation order, which you can present to your employer or your school to have a medical excuse for staying home. A Contact Tracer will then ask you questions like, "Who were you with during the time right prior to testing positive, and who have you been with since?"
I can't stress to you enough that you need to cooperate with these Contact Tracers. Let's say that you tell them that you potentially exposed five people to COVID. What the Contact Tracer does next is get in contact with those five people and say, "Hey, you need to quarantine for 14 days."
That information is important to your friends/family/coworkers for several reasons:
- First, it alerts them that they may have been exposed, which can save a life.
- Second, they're going to get directions from the city to quarantine under government order. The Contact Tracer will send that order via email to all the people that you exposed. If you've read my previous posts, you know that having a quarantine order is good. In order to claim benefits under the FFCRA (an extra two weeks of sick time with your employer), you have to have a positive test or an order to quarantine.
YOU CANNOT GET IN TROUBLE!
- Under federal law (HIPAA), El Paso Public Health cannot disclose your information to anyone. Contact Tracers don't even tell the people you exposed who exposed them. They just say, "Hey, you were exposed on this date."
- Under federal law, El Paso Public Health cannot share your information with law enforcement.
There's 0.0% risk to you giving this information.
You have an obligation as a citizen of El Paso to report within 24 hours if you don't get a call from a Contact Tracer.
In reality, the tracers are so backed up that they're probably not going to call you within 24 hours, but if you haven't gotten that call, go online to epstrong.org and self-report. There's a little button that says "self-report," and it takes 2 minutes to fill out your name and information.
Need a Release Form to Return to Work?
If your employer is requiring a negative test result or a release form from the city, there's only one way to get that form. El Paso Public Health must do an investigation into your positive case or quarantine and then the isolation period or quarantine has to be over. At that point, El Paso Public Health has workers whose job it is to give you a release order. If there isn't an investigation into your positive case or quarantine, you're not going to get a release order.
Stay healthy, folks!