TULSA, OK – [April 17, 2020] – Oklahoma’s public health officials are emphasizing the importance of contact tracing of positive COVID-19 cases, particularly as discussions continue around the feasibility of lifting stay-at-home recommendations and reopening businesses.
Contact tracing is a process used by public health officials to slow the rate of community spread of an infectious disease by interrupting the chain of transmission. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) current recommendations, contacts include household members, caregivers of COVID-19 patients in a household and anyone who has had close contact of six feet or more with the confirmed case for a prolonged period of time.
“Identifying contacts to a confirmed case is a vital avenue to help mitigate the spread of illness within the community,” said Jessica Rice, THD Epidemiology Supervisor. “Knowledge about potential exposure can empower residents to take action to protect not only themselves but their loved ones as well.”
Contact tracing investigations are initiated by identifying close contacts to a confirmed case. Close contacts are defined as individuals who were within six feet of the confirmed case for more than 10 minutes during the confirmed case’s contagious period.
THD epidemiologist have been conducting contact tracing investigations related to COVID-19 since the first case in Oklahoma was identified in Tulsa County in early March.
During the investigation, epidemiologist and public health personnel identify persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 and discuss symptom monitoring and isolation requirements. The public health team will identify and evaluate individuals considered to have had close contact with a confirmed case during their contagious period and provide appropriate guidance to self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms. Individuals who were in close contact with a positive case have a higher risk of contracting the virus.
“Being diligent about social distancing and adhering to quarantine and/or isolation recommendations is essential to mitigating the spread of illness,” added Rice.
The information gathered during any investigation is confidential. Any information obtained is only used to identify and provide important guidance to confirmed cases and anyone identified as a close contact.
THD encourages all Tulsa County residents to stay informed with information from credible resources such as THD, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Call the Tulsa Health Department at 918-582-WELL (9355) during regular business hours or the Oklahoma COVID-19 Hotline at 877-215-8336 which is available 24/7. Spanish-speaking interpreters available.