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COVID Crisis Post 64: Contact Tracing Explained.

I miss normal life just like everyone else. Trust me.

And as a result, I will continue to be a sounding board for the things I believe that are necessary to get as close to normal as possible.

Social distancing, masks, hygiene, and vaccines have been discussed ad nauseam on many forums, including my own.

But one thing that has not been discussed in much detail is contact tracing. It is constantly mentioned as necessary to get this disease under control, but many people still do not understand what it entails.

So here goes:

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing has been around for decades and is a pillar of public health. It is essential to help monitor and control the spread of communicable disease within our community. Well-trained individuals, known as contact tracers, are essential for effective contact tracing.

There are 3 basic steps the contact tracer follows:

Contact Identification - interviewing the infected individual, and helping the individual recall to the best of their ability all of the individuals (contacts) who could be at risk of contracting the infection.

Contact, well, Contact 😅 - notifying the contacts of their possible exposure to a disease WITHOUT identifying the infected individual, and then educating regarding disease and prevention, as well as possibly recommending treatment or isolation, if warranted.

Contact Follow-up - to monitor for symptoms and test if necessary, as well as further education as required.

Contact tracing apps are a way to further identify and contact those at risk.

The purpose of these apps is to identify people who an infected person does NOT know but who may have had a prolonged exposure unknowingly, and to notify them so they may isolate and look for symptoms. But this only works if both parties have the app.

If it has been around for decades, can you give me a definitive example of where it was been shown to be effective?

Yup. We have all heard of smallpox. And most of us likely quickly pivot to the vaccine as the reason smallpox was eradicated.

And we would be wrong.

Smallpox was not eradicated via universal immunization. It was eradicated due to EXTENSIVE and EXHAUSTIVE contact tracing to find all infected or susceptible people. This was assisted by the inability of infected people to hide rashes, blisters, scabs, and scars that were obvious for smallpox.

What followed was isolation of all infected individuals and immunization of the surrounding community and contacts at-risk of contracting smallpox.

There is no way smallpox would have been controlled as quickly as it was if not for contact tracing.

Smallpox does not count because I choose for it to not count, even though it is an excellent example of the efficacy of contact tracing. So if contact tracing is so important for public health, can you name any other examples of its use in diseases that still exist? How come I never heard of it before the 5G towers spread this deadly virus? HMMMMM???

Cue: pandemic.

You likely never heard of it because you either did not study epidemiology or have never contracted a communicable disease where contact tracing could be initiated.

There are numerous diseases that are REQUIRED to be reported to the CDC and could be then tracked via contact tracing if needed, HIV and measles being two of the most well-known.

Contact tracing has also been utilized successfully to control Ebola. And H1N1. And SARS. And many other communicable diseases, INCLUDING COVID-19.

Cue: Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, who all have their shit together much better than we do.

Well, I will remain skeptical about all things China but you get the drift 😆.

The point is, it is nothing new even if it is new to YOU.

In the COVID-19 era, what is considered a close contact?

Per the CDC regarding: "Based on our current knowledge, a close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before illness onset until the time the patient is isolated. They should stay home, maintain social distancing, and self-monitor until 14 days from the last date of exposure."

BUT do not use this definition of a close contact as a reason to not wear a mask or social distance while in public! If someone coughs, sneezes, or breathes heavily around you for any reason, the amount of respiratory particles expelled could be enough to get you sick!

The idea is 15 minutes should be enough time for an infected individual to spread a high-enough viral load and infect a "contact" in normal conditions. There are many ways to get infected but this is the most practical way to identify and isolate those at highest risk, as trying to identify and isolate EVERYONE at risk would be an impossible endeavor.

But I heard contact tracing infringes on my right to privacy?

This is the kicker. Your right to privacy AND the safety of the public can BOTH be achieved. They are NOT mutually exclusive.

As I stated above, your identity is NEVER communicated to any of your listed contacts. Just as you would trust your physician or other healthcare professional to maintain your privacy via HIPAA, the same rules of HIPAA apply to contact tracers.

Contact tracing apps from 3rd parties like Apple or Google are a bit thornier when it comes to privacy. The moment a person opts into this type of app, HIPAA no longer applies since those companies are not covered entities under HIPAA. Both companies have worked to assuage privacy concerns by stating these apps will be dismantled as soon as the disease is under control, but those concerns remain.

But this is my take: most of the apps we use currently collect and utilize our personal information for SOMETHING. So there are many opportunities for our privacy to be invaded already. But in this case, there is an actual BENEFIT to the community as a whole.

If you have COVID-19, I would like to know. And if I have COVID-19, I would like you to know.

These apps are not collecting additional health information from you. Just your COVID-19 status or if you have any symptoms highly suggestive of COVID-19. That is it.

COVID-19 does not have the stigma of an STI. No one seems to be ashamed they caught it. In fact, most people freely admit they have contracted the disease almost as a badge of honor, and proclaim this fact publicly either themselves, through family and friends, or via social media.

I have yet to hear anyone complain that someone told others about their status. I definitely did not hear any whining from those who suffered through the misery of the actual illness because they realized how much it sucked.

And I DEFINITELY did not hear any whining from those that are, you know, dead. Shocking.

If contact tracing is so important, why did we not initiate this earlier?

I have no good answer for that besides a failure to take this pandemic more seriously and politics.

Contact tracing should have been initiated long ago to help the US get this disease under control in its early stages, but it was not. But it is not too late to do so now, it is just going to be a much bigger job now than it needed to be given how widespread the disease is at this moment.

It still sounds too fishy and I think it still violates my rights for absolutely no good reason.

If you are STILL against contract tracing, let me ask you something simple:

If you could be told someone may have just exposed you to a life-threatening illness, would you want to know that? If not for you, for the safety of your loved ones?

If so, then you just benefitted from contact tracing. And if you want to benefit from it, then you need to participate in it as well. Otherwise IT DOES NOT WORK.

Be a symbiote. Not a parasite.

And if that STILL is not enough of a reason, how about the sooner we get this virus under control, the sooner we can reopen society and save our economy and do what we do and imbibe copious amounts of alcoholic beverages with little concern, all the while listening to Ice Cube's "It Was A Good Day"?

"And everything is alright I got a beep from Kim and she can f**k all night Called up the homies and I'm askin' y'all Which park, are y'all playin' basketball? Get me on the court and I'm trouble Last week fucked around and got a triple double Freaking brothers every way like M.J. I can't believe, today was a good day"

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