Photo Credit: Annie Spratt via Unsplash
Contact tracing and case management continues to be Niagara Region Public Health’s (NRPH) most important method of stopping the spread of COVID-19. Many citizens, however, do not know the process that takes place behind the scenes when a positive case of the virus is confirmed.
Upon receiving a report of a confirmed case, NRPH immediately follows up to ensure the person diagnosed is isolating. During the follow-up, the organization gathers information about where the diagnosed individual has been and who they have been in contact with to assess further risk.
“Public Health follows up with each person, workplace and business identified by our team as potentially being at significant risk and provides direction,” said Kerri Stoakley, a representative from NRPH.
This contact tracing process doesn’t change whether someone is an independent member of the community, affiliated with a workplace, a health care institution or a school.
If someone tests positive for COVID-19 at a school and it is determined that there is a risk to others at the school, a very similar process begins. Initially, public health contacts the school, who helps identify those who have been in close contact and will then assess the risk of exposure. Those who have been in close contact will be contacted by public health and told to isolate for 14 days. Typically, these are people who are in the same class as the person who tested positive. Public health will advise if any household members need to be tested.
“It’s important to keep in mind that when someone has tested positive for COVID-19 at a school, not everyone may have been exposed,” said Stoakley. “Those who have been in close contact will be contacted by Public Health and those who were identified as not being at significant risk will not receive a call from Public Health. [Those individuals] can keep going to school as usual as long as they are not ill and the school is open. No news is good news.”
If an outbreak is declared in a school or workplace, NRPH will determine the next steps on how to control the outbreak, which could include closing classrooms or facilities, isolating cohorts or closing an entire school or workplace.
Individuals and families who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to reach out to their health care provider for advice on testing and next steps. Those who do not have a designated health care provider can reach out to public health for advice.
As this is a rapidly evolving situation, it is important for residents to use credible sources to stay informed. The Brock Press is Brock’s only independent student-led newspaper and strives to provide the latest information in the region regarding COVID-19. Individuals with questions about the region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to contact NRPH by calling 905-688-8248 or 1-888-505-6074. Additionally, the organization releases updates via their YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/NiagaraRegionCA/.