How "contact tracing" helps find others exposed to the virus after a confirmed case is reported

Published: Mar. 24, 2020 at 6:53 PM CDT
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State health officials are sharing more about what happens when someone does test positive for COVID-19.

Along with the new Safer at Home order, the state department of health services says its dedicating a team of 60 public health professionals to focus on contact tracing.

Contact tracing is the process used to determine who else was exposed when a positive case is reported. DHS Secretary- Designee Andrea Palm says after a test comes up positive, the patient is typically contacted by the hospital or facility that administered the test. Then the local health department is notified and that’s when contact tracing begins.

The confirmed patient is then interviewed to determine any travel history that may have been a factor and who they’ve been in contact with during the period of exposure.

Health officials then go ahead and reach out to each person they believe should be contacted. "We can figure out what sort of risk they are to that exposure and if they are more or less likely to contract the disease based on the type of contact they had with that positive case," said Palm.

DHS is also encouraging the public to limit the amount of people they have contact with to the same five people each day. Anyone confirmed to have the virus or is being monitored for potential exposure is asked by health officials to self-isolate. “Isolation means staying at home and staying in a room away from family, staying home and away from others in the home,” said Palm.

Palm says all these measures are in place to slow the spread of the virus which could potentially overwhelm the healthcare system.