Tri-County Health hopes to expand its paid volunteer staff over the next month, ramping up an effort to track COVID-19’s spread through the area through contact tracing.
“Contact tracing is one of the most critical things that we are doing right now,” said Ashley Richter, epidemiology manager for Tri-County Health, which serves Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. “When we are responding to just positive, confirmed COVID-19 cases, we are constantly playing catch up. Contact tracing, this is how we get ahead of the virus.”
Tri-County Health plans to bring on 30 people over the next six weeks. These are paid volunteers who will call people who have unwittingly been in social contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The volunteers will contact those people to inform them that they are at special risk of catching the virus, tell them how to get tested and ask them to self-quarantine.
“When things are working perfectly, for someone who has the virus and has been around another person, we can call that second person,” Richter said. “If they are not ill, we can tell them what we need them to do, to quarantine inside their home. If they follow our recommendations to a T, they are not spreading the virus. That’s how this pandemic is going to stop.”
The volunteers will confirm the contactee’s name, address and date of birth, ask about their occupation and if they’ve had symptoms. The volunteers will not ask for social security numbers, credit information or residency status and they will not divulge the names of anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
To apply for one of the volunteer jobs, go to the Tri-County Health Department website and click on the “Careers” link at the bottom of the page: www.tchd.org/688/Current-Job-Openings.
“We currently have about 26 volunteers that are on our team, but we have 60 people right now that are trained,” she said. “Most of those doing that work now are Tri-County employees who have been pulled from other departments. We’ve tapped out internally in terms of who we can use to support this response. Without volunteers, this would not be possible.”
As of June 26, there have been 9,866 cases of COVID-19 in the Tri-County area: 873 in Douglas County, 3,971 in Adams County and 5,022 in Arapahoe County.
While the three-day average number of cases has decreased in Douglas County between June 12 and 26, it’s actually increased in Tri-County’s other two jurisdictions. Adams County has seen a 6.5% three day average increase while Arapahoe County has seen a 25.9% increase.
Hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing are still the best practice for most people, but those who have been exposed to the virus need to take special precautions. Volunteers will be ask those who have been exposed to stay at home and away from others, check their temperature twice daily and monitor themselves for symptoms. If no symptoms appear within 14 days, they can go back to a normal social distancing.
If they do get COVID-19 symptoms — cough, shortness of breath, fever, diarrhea, head and muscle aches, loss of taste and smell and sore throat — they should keep quarantine and get tested. Their self isolation can end at least ten days after the symptoms first appeared and they have had three days without a fever.
This story comes from Colorado Community Media, a family of newspapers across metro Denver. Used by permission. For more, visit coloradocommunitymedia.com/