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Backtracking confirmed COVID-19 cases to help slow the virus' spread

Health agencies in Josephine and Jackson County work to compile a list of contacts from positive coronavirus patients.

Posted: Mar 24, 2020 5:34 PM
Updated: Mar 24, 2020 6:36 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — When a new case of the novel coronavirus is confirmed, a team of case investigators works backward from 14 days of the first sign of symptoms to try and find people who may have been exposed.

The case investigators in Josephine County will work with the patient, the patient's health care provider and any organizations the patient has contact with.

RELATED: Asante employee in Josephine County tests positive for COVID-19

It's a multi-agency task force that helps retrace the steps of the patient. In Josephine County, there are currently nine agencies working together to collect this information.

"Through a thorough contact investigation, we are able to gain demographic information. Phone numbers, address, things of that nature," Anthony Perry, a communicable disease specialist for Josephine County Public Health, said.

With that information, investigators create a contact list of people who could've come in contact with. The process typically takes three to six days per case but varies based on a patient and the social interactions they typically have with others.

When those contacts are identified, the team interviews the contact and then finds out if they are at risk to have been exposed.

"With symptomatic individuals, they will become persons under investigation," said Perry. "We will then conduct monitoring with them, but for individuals who do not have any symptoms, those individuals are just recommended to self-isolate at home, monitor their fever and their symptoms and then from there, if they develop, then we will proceed further with either testing or treatment of their symptoms.”

"There are certain groups of people who are at high risk for complications for COVID-19, so those people would be more likely to be tested," said Josephine County Public Health Officer Dr. David Candelaria. "These would be people who are older people with morbidities, people who are residents of long term care facilities. But what’s different in this case investigation is because of the scarcity in supplies for testing and the test itself, not everyone who becomes symptomatic will become tested.”

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