The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) has redirected and trained four workers to join the three existing case investigating nurses to increase contact tracing capacity in Malheur County. Bob Dickinson, Ambulance Services Director also received training and has volunteered to support the team. A regional Epidemiologist is also assisting the health department contact tracing efforts. With this team of nine, Malheur County is in an excellent position starting Phase Two of Reopening Oregon safely.
As these new contact tracers begin to work with people in Malheur County who have been exposed to someone with a positive test for the virus, MCHD issued the following information to help members of the community understand what contact tracing is, and what they can expect in interactions with members of the contact tracing team.
“We’re excited to begin a new phase of this important work, which will help keep community members safe,” said Tana Waller, MCHD Communicable Disease Nurse. “We ask people to answer our calls and follow the guidance if they’ve been exposed to the virus, so that we can continue to suppress COVID-19 in our community. As we do this, we’ll protect our family, friends, and neighbors.”
Here’s what people in Malheur County need to know:
WHO WILL RECEIVE A CALL?
• People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
• People who may have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING A CALL:
IF YOU HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19:
- A health official with MCHD will call and encourage you to self-isolate.
- Self-isolation means…
- Staying away from everyone, including the people you live with and family members.
- Not sharing utensils or bathrooms with others.
- Only leaving home to seek medical treatment.
- Self-isolate for:
- At least 10 days after your symptoms began
- At least 72 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms improve.
- At least 10 days after your symptoms began
- Even if you don’t have symptoms or feel sick, self-isolate for 10 days after you are first diagnosed with COVID-19.
- MCHD will:
- Help you remember the places you visited and the people you have been around before you began self-isolating. These people are called your contacts.
- Local public or tribal health will reach out to your contacts and ask them to quarantine. However, your privacy will be protected, and your contacts will not be told your identity.
- Help you understand how to prevent the spread of the virus, how to care for yourself, and how to connect with local resources if needed.
- Your information is strictly confidential and will be treated as protected health information
IF YOU HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO SOMEONE WITH COVID-19:
- Contact tracers working with MCHD will call to let you know that you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.
- They will ask you to quarantine.
• Quarantine means that you stay home or at the location provided by local public or tribal health. When in quarantine, stay at least 6 feet away from everyone you live with.
• Even if you do not have symptoms or feel sick, stay home and quarantine for 14 days.
• Quarantine lasts for 14 days after you were exposed to COVID-19. After 14 days, the danger of becoming sick will have passed.
- During your quarantine, contact tracers will:
• Call or text you daily to see how you are feeling.
• Encourage you to get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms and feel sick.
• Connect you with resources in your local community if needed.
- If you do not experience any symptoms or get sick after your 14 days of quarantine, you may end your quarantine and resume your normal activities.
COVID-19 symptoms include: Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell.
How will your privacy be protected?
• Your information is strictly confidential.
• Your information will not be shared with immigration officials.
MCHD will never ask for your:
• Social security number
• Immigration status (Note: Information will not be shared with immigration authorities or law enforcement for immigration purposes. Getting tested or treated for COVID-19 will not affect your ability to get permanent residency in the U.S.)
• Credit card number, bank account, or billing information
MCHD will ask:
• Your county of residence
• Your date of birth
• Your contact information, including phone number, email address, and mailing address
• Your occupation
• Whether you have symptoms of COVID-19
As our community reopens more, it is crucial that we continue the personal practices to keep our community safe and prevent virus spread. Maintaining six feet of physical distance, wearing a face cover while in public, coughing and sneezing into elbows, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, are all measures that have helped to flatten the curve. Contact tracing is additional tool to avoid further disease spread, but we need everyone in Malheur County to do their part to keep themselves and their community safe.
To learn more about contact tracing, please visit https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-Contact-Collaborative.