PORTSMOUTH — Amy Albrecht had just spent her July 4 at a barbecue with family and friends. It was a day of celebration, almost reminiscent of the days before what has come of 2020. All it took was one phone call for her to be reminded of reality.
“We were sitting right beside her at the table and you kinda let your guard down when you’re around your family,” said Albrecht, the Portsmouth Daily Times’ office administrator of the past two years. “It was scary for me and I was trying to think of who all I had been around.”
Albrecht’s call was not from the Scioto County Health Department (SCHD) or the Portsmouth City Health Department (PCHD), but rather from a family member. A family friend of Albrecht had tested positive for the coronavirus putting everyone at-risk.
She worried if she had exposed her father, who Albrecht said is not in the best of health. Albrecht felt better after learning her niece had tested negative and that she herself had and has not exhibited any symptoms. Out of precaution, she started working from home last week, only going to the office parking lot to pick up mail.
Without the phone call, Albrecht might have never known she had been near someone with COVID-19. Across the country, local and state health departments-built contact tracing programming to inform people like Albrecht who recently spent time with someone with the coronavirus. The SCHD already had a contact tracing program before the coronavirus, dating back to the 1920s which had been primarily used for positive STD tests.
The program is run by Tracey Henderson, SCHD Director of Nursing, and has three nurses working the phones in addition to their daily work. After receiving a positive test, Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Martin said the program relies on voluntary contact information to get the word out.
According to figures from the SCHD, the county has with 39 recovered and 10 hospitalized. The county has a census-estimated , meaning that less than 1% of the county has a confirmed case. Still, with so little known about the virus, Dr. Martin said testing and tracing are vital components to gather scientific knowledge.
“It’s very important to the slow the spread of this disease because we don’t have great treatment for it,” said Dr. Martin. “By doing contact tracing, we’re able to quarantine those people to make sure they don’t spread it or have it.”
Dr. Martin said what makes this disease so difficult to stop is that asymptomatic and presymptomatic cases, up to 48 hours before showing symptoms, can both transmit the coronavirus.
“They would have been spreading this virus if it wasn’t for contact tracing,” said Dr. Martin, who recommends 14 days of quarantine if you or someone you have interacted with tests positive. “It’s a very powerful tool that we’re using because we really don’t have effective treatment. This is not the flu.”
The Ohio Department of Health has listings of contact tracing jobs online, jobs that would be done remotely and pay up to $18.59 per hour. The department asks those interested to contact Jennifer Valentine at her email, jennifer.valentine@odh.Ohio.gov, if they have questions.
Reach Patrick Keck (614) 949-0629 , by email at email@example.com , or on Twitter @pkeckreporter © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved