Communicable diseases program supervisor talks contact tracing, challenges faced by investigators

HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Calif. (KIEM) — Humboldt County’s communicable disease program supervisor, Hava Phillips, is giving the community a better idea of what goes into contact tracing for Covid-19 cases.

The most important thing she stressed was that contact tracing is a team effort. Teams are made up of contact tracers who are making phone calls and collecting information, the data management crew that takes all the information and records it, and also the investigators who oversee the investigation and make decisions about isolation and quarantine. All team members go through roughly 20 hours of state training before training with Public Health staff as well.

Phillips acknowledges the challenges contact tracing investigations face when lab testing isn’t able to keep up. In order to investigate a case, you have to know that it exists. They have also faced some problems with people not cooperating with public health’s investigations.

“There are occasionally folks who are afraid to share information with us for a variety of reasons, or have some concerns working with Public Health for whatever reason. It’s typically the case that even the people who are very reluctant in the beginning, when it comes down to it we will make sure we get the information that we need to be able to reach out to the people who need to know they were exposed,” Phillips says.

Phillips also provided some clarity on who is considered a close contact. In general, a close contact is somebody who has been within 6 feet of an infectious person for 15 minutes or longer.