Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the term "contact tracing" has been used a lot. But it's nothing new. In fact, contact tracing has been around for decades.
Dr. Todd Vento, and infectious disease epidemiologist with Intermountain Healthcare said contact tracing is a function of the health department, but when they needed a little extra help at the start of the pandemic, Intermountain was happy to have professionals step in.
"We have an obligation as being good stewards and citizens in our community to support those efforts," Vento said.
Ally Cias, a speech pathologist by degree, was one of the Intermountain employees who was reassigned to the new role.
"It was an opportunity for me to get to still use my clinical skills and get to help people that are going through something difficult," Cias said.
Cias was on the front line to put the pieces of a puzzle together, starting with an infected person.
"A person becomes a contact when they have been within 6 feet of distance for at least 15 minutes or more with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19," said Cias. "And the contact tracer's job is to call those contacts."
She said making those phone calls came as a surprise most times to the people on the other end of the line. "That can be scary for people. That can ring about a lot of questions - what should I do? How can I keep my family safe? What about going back to work?"
Along with informing people of potential exposure, contact tracers provide important information about symptoms and how to quarantine. Dr. Vento stressed that informing people of exposure and safeguard measures is what can ultimately help put an end to the pandemic.
"Our jobs as health care providers and public health officers is to make sure we continue to explain why it's important," Vento said.
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