Douglas County COVID Contact Tracing Faces Challenges
Socially-distance. Stay home - when you can. Wear a face mask. And - answer your phone! That's the message from Douglas County Public Health officials. As response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues, local health professionals and county workers find themselves at the front-line of the fight. One of the health and safety measures put into place is community contact tracing - the process by which people who may have come in contact with someone who tests positive for the virus are informed. While there is a definite plan in place, there are challenges along the way ready to derail the process.
Here's how community contact tracing works in Douglas County (and most other communities, too): When someone is tested for COVID-19 and the results come back positive, that person is surveyed for information about where they've been and who they've been in close proximity to during the preceding 48 hours. Officials with the health department, the county, or workers hired by the county then attempt to make contact with those other individuals. The easiest and most-efficient way to do this is over the telephone.
While the process sounds simple, it often isn't. News sources report that Douglas County officials sometimes encounter road blocks - especially with phone calls. "More recent cases have involved younger people who don’t know everyone they had close contact with or how to contact them. ...That's been a big challenge for the department." Douglas County Public Health Officer Kathy Ronchi explains:
"I would say that is one of our biggest challenges to contact tracing. People who can’t answer the phone should clean out or set up their voicemail boxes so health officials can leave a message".
Reports show that as many as 20 people have been directly linked to a single positive COVID case in Douglas County. With high numbers like that, it's important to take extra precautions.