When a person tests positive for COVID-19, communicable disease specialists called contact tracers get on the phone and try to stop a chain reaction of infections.
Paulette Magur is the Communicable Disease Division Manager at the Eau Claire City-County Health Department and has been doing contact tracing for contagious diseases for more than 30 years but says this is the busiest she has ever been.
“Our goal is to box in this disease. We know it is more contagious than influenza and we want to make sure we get a hold of this virus and stop the spread,” Magur said.
When someone tests positive, the health care provider will contact the health department. Then, the contact tracer will call the COVID positive person and ask them a series of questions, including who they have been in close contact with since they became symptomatic.
“Close contact” counts as anyone they have been within six feet of for more than 15 minutes. Contact tracers will then call these people and ask them to quarantine for 14 days.
Magur says contact tracing is an essential step in containing COVID-19 since there is currently not a vaccine.
If you are contacted by a contact tracer, it’s best to cooperate with the quarantine which can even be legally enforced.
Magur says the health department will call during the quarantine to check in and see if there is anything the person needs.
Currently, there are about 30 contact tracers working at the Eau Claire City-County Health Department but Magur says they have been so busy they are considering hiring more.