Cooperation With COVID-19 Contact Tracing Is Essential
My friend Chris recently told me that she got a call from the city health department. She may have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The city official asked about symptoms and encouraged her to self-quarantine for 14 days.
This is called contact tracing, a way to slow the spread of a disease. This is not new; contact tracing has been around for decades. It is a core disease control measure employed by local and state health department personnel and now it plays a key role in preventing further spread of COVID-19.
Contact tracing lets people know they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and should monitor for signs and symptoms of the virus. Here’s how it works.
- The local health department gets information about those who recently tested positive for the virus.
- Contact tracers from the health department interview those individuals to identify others with whom they’ve had close contact. (A close contact is anyone who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes.)
- Health department officials then alert those close contacts, usually within 24 hours, that they may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
- During the call, the officials will ask whether the person is experiencing any symptoms and encourage testing. For those who don’t have symptoms and can’t be tested, or they test negative for the virus, the official will ask them to self-quarantine for 14 days, maintain social distance, and check in with their physicians or the health department.
- Close contacts should also check their temperature daily, monitor for symptoms and take immediate action if they begin developing symptoms.
- The officials do not reveal the name of the individual who tested positive so the process is anonymous and confidential.
Some points about Medicare and the virus
- Check out the Medicare & Coronavirus website. You’ll find information on how to slow the virus’ spread, precautions you can take, coping with stress, and other ways Medicare is helping.
- Know that Medicare has updated some coverage guidelines to help Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Protect yourself from scams. It should come as no surprise that the pandemic is presenting so many new fraud opportunities. Scammers are offering free supplies or COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information. Know that legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare number or financial information.
- If you get a call from your health department, answer it, listen carefully and take the appropriate steps.
Chris was okay with the self-quarantine and social distancing. She wasn’t so keen on going for a test, given the hassle, and wishes she had known where and when she’d been exposed. She suspects it was her hairdresser. Like many women and men, going three months without a haircut was not fun, and Chris knew she was taking a risk. But, fortunately for her, she did not develop the virus. For the duration of the pandemic, she’ll skip haircuts and wear a cap when she goes to the grocery store.