The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) has ramped up its efforts to investigate positive COVID-19 cases and determine if others around these patients have been exposed.
At the heart of this effort are contact tracers who work to contact each person who may have been in close proximity to a positive case for an extended timeframe.
“At a glance, contact tracing is a simple process. If someone tests positive for COVID-19 the Public Health Department will reach out to the individual to begin capturing the health status and contact history,” said Health Program Manager Sara Cera. “We ask individuals a series of questions to help us identify others who might be at risk and also to help us determine next steps. The department will continue working to monitor individuals twice a day for 14 days to track the person’s health and also determine how the virus progresses.”
The COVID-19 epidemiology team has been significantly augmented with health department staff, nurses, educators, food inspectors, members of the El Paso Fire Department, and students from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s Foster School of Medicine.
The team is serving a critical role in the battle against this virus. They are working staggered shifts 7 days a week to meet the community’s needs.
Contact tracing revolves around clarifying the connections between infected individuals in order to identify the source, isolate and test those at risk, and slow down the transmission of a disease. In the case of illnesses for which there is no vaccine, such as COVID-19, contact tracing represents the ultimate weapon in the public health pandemic arsenal.
Contact tracers work with patients to educate them on the importance of practicing self-isolation and wearing a face covering, which are critical education measures, especially for residents who are waiting for test results or are asymptomatic.
“Our contact tracers are highly trained in pursuing the origin of an infection down to the very last detail,” Cera said. “We’re very proud of our team and the hard work and dedication they display each and every day in the fight against this pandemic.”
In addition to cooperating with these “disease detectives” when they call, residents are also asked to keep track of any signs and symptoms so that if you are ever contacted as a potential exposure, you can provide quality data to those investigating.
For more information about COVID-19, visit www.epstrong.org.
The 21-COVID hotline is operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For referral to services, contact 2-1-1 and select option six (6).