TRI-CITIES WA - According to Governor Jay Inslee a major key to reopening Washington's economy is contact tracing. Right now there are more than 1,300 people trained and ready to work with local health departments, to gather information and help curve the spread of Covid-19.
As contact tracing becomes part of our new normal health workers have been using contact tracing for decades, to limit the spread of STDs and other diseases like tuberculosis. Last year contact tracing played a huge role in containing the measles outbreak in New York.
"Contact tracing and isolation of people who are in fact infected... We think of this [contact tracing] as a smart weapon against this virus. And if it’s successful it will allow us to re-open our economy," Governor Inslee said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Right now if you test positive for COVID-19 you are likely to get a call from a contact tracer. This trained person will work with you to figure out who you were in contact with, and who you may have exposed to the virus. Those people are then contacted by the tracer and asked to quarantine to avoid further spread.
Those contacted will never be given the name of the person who tested positive for the Coronavirus. And any information gathered is only used by the health department, it will not be shared and is not accessible to anyone else.
Timing is everything in this line of work as people with Covid-19 are infectious days before they have any symptoms. Asymptomatic patients can also spread the virus.
As part of phase 2 of reopening Washington state new regulations are requiring restaurants to keep logs with phone numbers and emails of patrons who dine in. This is to make sure customers are reachable in case they end up being exposed to COVID-19. It's an old fashioned method, but health experts say it works and has been proven to help combat the spread of a number of viruses.
Despite privacy concerns- contact tracing is considered a public health intervention and it’s protected by the U.S Constitution.
However you are not legally required to share your information with a contact tracer- it is completely voluntary. It's important to note that while a contact tracer must confirm your identity, they will ever ask for your immigration status, social security, marital status and any type of financial information.