Once a case of COVID-19 is identified, one of the best tools to limit the spread is contact tracing.
There are 30 reported positive COVID-19 test results from people residing in San Juan County. For each of these, the County Health Department has performed extensive case investigation, tracing as many individuals as possible who the infected person had contact with.
According to the county, some investigations are simple and only one or two close family members are identified as being at risk for transmission. In more complex cases, dozens of contacts may be identified.
Each one of those individuals is then spoken to in order to determine whether they were at risk of being exposed. For those who are found to have been exposed, public health nurses work with that person on how to quarantine and determine whether follow up testing is recommended (often it is). Additionally, they remain in communication daily for 14 days after the exposure to assess whether the person has developed symptoms, to ensure they have access to a medical provider for follow up and confirm that any additional needs are met in order to successfully quarantine.
We urge the public to not lie or omit information to this team tasked with a very challenging endeavor. It slows down the process and puts your friends and family at risk.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, some Americans have felt state-mandated public safety measures are infringing on their personal freedom. We understand that it can feel like an invasion of privacy to reveal your social calendar to a government entity. However, this is actually about protecting your community. The team of tracers does their very best to protect your anonymity as is required by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). The names of anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 or in association with someone who has tested positive are not released to the public or the people contacted by contact tracers.
As many experts predicted would happen, we are in the middle of another surge of cases. We cannot stress enough the importance of covering our faces; insisting on face coverings from those we interact with; limiting exposure to others, and washing our hands frequently. San Juan County is still in phase two, which carries an even greater responsibility to adhere to safety precautions because of the increase in visitors to our islands.
It is imperative that islanders cooperate with contact tracing efforts. We all want the same result: the limit the spread of COVID-19.