COVID-19 contact tracing is way to limit exposure
(Editor’s note: With COVID-19, health care professionals track the spread through vital services such as contact tracing.)
As soon as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit our community, the clock began to tick on our ability to quickly identify those who had been exposed. Immediately identifying potential exposures is the foundational block to mitigating the spread of this virus and each day matters.
Through March and April, the Office of Employee Health (OEH) and CCHCS began contact tracing of staff who tested positive.
Contact tracing involves identifying people who have an infectious disease and their contacts (people who may have been exposed). This information provides education and resources to support the employee to help slow the spread.
Those tasked with contact tracing have also been called “disease detectives,” but their role extends far beyond just identifying cases. Their work is a vital reminder that this is about people, not the disease.
To conduct contact tracing within institutions and locations, a team of nurse consultants redirected by CCHCS joined the overall effort.
Along with retired annuitant volunteers, the nurses were redirected from areas such as health care audits, compliance and appeals.
Once an institution, or OEH, is made aware of an employee who tested positive, the contact tracer’s work begins. First, they reach out to offer support and guidance on how the employee can protect themselves and their families. The nurse consultants provide COVID-19 education, a critical service as this new virus brings with it much misinformation and fear.
“It’s important to reassure the employee that this could happen to anyone,” said Ruben Catli, one of the nurse consultants. “We want them to know we do care about them and hope the information dispels some of the stigma.”
In addition to providing virus education, the nurse consultant asks:
- for information related to places the employee had been in the institution
- if they had close contact with any other staff members or incarcerated persons
- all other relevant information needed to make comprehensive quarantine recommendations to institution operations and health care leadership.
CDCR and CCHCS are made up of people who are part of the larger community. What happens outside of prison walls directly impacts what happens inside of them.
In addition to contact tracing, multiple strategies have been implemented since mid-March to control the spread of the virus within our institutions.
- suspending intake from jails and halting non-essential transfers
- exponentially increasing testing for inmates and staff
- implementing early release programs for eligible inmates and those deemed medically high-risk for complications
- limiting movement within institutions
- and mandating all inmates and staff wear masks.
More efforts are underway as CDCR and CCHCS work tirelessly to address this public health emergency.
Katherine Minnich, CDCR’s Deputy Director of Human Resources, said she is proud of the team’s commitment and dedication.
“The small but mighty OEH Nurse Consultant team is the calm and reassuring voice staff hear,” she said. “They work tirelessly to ensure staff and the institutions are supported during this unprecedented time.”
- Discover more about California’s efforts to combat COVID-19.
- Find more stories about CDCR’s efforts regarding COVID-19.