The last line of defense: Contact tracers and COVID-19 patients

The third in a series of Penn Medicine’s public health outreach to stem the spread of the coronavirus looks at the role of contact tracing.

For those who’ve tested positive for COVID-19, and are well enough to be home, next comes days of self-quarantine and close monitoring of symptoms. Penn Medicine patients may be enrolled in COVID Watch to stay connected with care and have a resource for information and follow-up if symptoms get worse.

Heat map contact tracing a city where an infected person have spread COVID-19.

COVID-positive patients have an important role to play in stopping the spread of COVID. After a positive test result, whether or not an individual has symptoms, they can help the public health effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 by thinking through where they’ve been and with whom they’ve interacted in the last week and sharing that information with a contact tracer.

As key players in the COVID-19 pandemic response, contact tracers are people who call those who have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19 to determine in-person contact over recent days. Contact tracers can then use that information to counsel people who may have unknowingly been exposed to the virus to quarantine, thereby eliminating opportunities for further viral spread.

“People have suggested we’re like detectives, but we’re really not,” says Nawar Naseer, a Ph.D. candidate in the Cell and Molecular Biology Program at the Perelman School of Medicine, who helps manage the team of tracers at Penn Medicine. “We want everyone involved to remember that we’re not trying to snoop, get anyone into trouble, or learn personal details about someone’s life. We’re largely volunteers, trying to help keep your community and the people you care about healthy.”

This story is by Alex Gardner. Read more at Penn Medicine News.

Read the first story in the series.
Read the second story in the series.