How your Health Department Tracks COVID-19
By: Shari Rayner, BCN, RN
Director of Nursing
Noble County Health Department
One of the Noble County Health Department’s main responsibilities with any disease outbreak or illness is contact tracing. Contact tracing is a method used to contain the spread of communicable diseases, such as COVID-19. It is the process used by public health to identify individuals who may have come into close contact with an infected person. Close contacts are then notified and isolated (if sick) or quarantined (if well) to lessen further spread of the virus.
COVID-19 is a reportable disease, which means health care providers are required to report a positive result to the local health department where the patient lives. This report must be completed within 24 hours of the result. When a positive COVID-19 test result is received, the public health investigation begins.
A nurse from the health department contacts the patient to provide education, instruction and to answer any questions. The patient is told to self-isolate, which means staying away from others within the household, preferably in a single room and using a separate bathroom. The nurse works to identify the patient’s close contacts during their contagious period. For COVID-19 this time includes 48 hours prior to when their symptoms began until the time of the interview. A close contact of a COVID-19 case is defined as someone who was within 6 feet or less and for greater than 10 minutes.
Once the close contacts are identified, they are contacted by phone and provided instructions about self-quarantine. Self-quarantine usually consists of being instructed to stay at home for 14 days from their last contact with the confirmed patient. During this time, the contact is to monitor their symptoms and check their temperature twice per day. The health department makes daily contact with these individuals to track their symptoms and temperatures. By staying in daily contact, the health department is able to quickly identify potential cases.
Ohio remains under a “Stay at Home Order” therefore, if we as residents are obeying this order, the number of contacts to be traced should be limited to household contacts, unless you are an essential employee. “We are all in this together!” Thanks for doing your part to keep Noble County safe!