LAS VEGAS (FOX5)-- As coronavirus cases go up in Nevada, contact tracers are working around the clock to help curb the spread of the virus.
Their job is to find people who came contact with an infected person.
“What we look for is their onset date. Tell us, when did your symptoms start? And from there we go two days before the onset date up until whenever is in the timeline that we’re speaking to them so it could be 14 days or it could be maybe five or six days,” said Disease Investigator Devin Raman.
She said the goal is to find every person the patient came in close contact with, which the CDC defines as more than 15 minutes within 6 ft.
“It can be extremely challenging, particularly for people who work in a field who come into contact with a lot of clients or something like that … We get lists of 50 to 100 people that were just contacts to this one case,” said Raman.
Ideally, all those people would then self-quarantine to prevent exposing more people.
Raman said that’s another challenge.
“In the real world it is very difficult for people to do that and some people don’t want to,” she said.
Raman said some patients she’s talked to don’t remember coming in close contact with anyone who’s sick. It’s called community spread and Raman said it’s not a good sign.
“We’re seeing a lot of cases and it’s only going to get worse as more things open up.”
She is one of about 40-50 contact tracers at The Southern Nevada Health District.
Raman said as cases dramatically rise, so does the workload for her team.
She said one of her colleagues has already surprised 600 cases this year, which is equivalent to all her cases from the year before.
“We have someone on call all the time. We’ve got our phones glued to our sides responding to important emails, we’ve got staff working every weekend just to barely get by with what we have,” said Raman.
The state hired consulting firm Deloitte to help relieve the workload. It allows contact tracers like Raman to focus on case investigations, while Deloitte contacts people who have been exposed.
Raman said they need more help because this massive workload isn’t going anywhere, at least until there’s a vaccine.
Some states are using contact tracing apps. Raman said it could be helpful because some people don’t remember who they’ve contacted.
Right now she said everything is mostly done manually but just recently they started using a notification system. It gets lab results directly to the patient.
“Because of our massive workload we may not be able to get a hold of someone as quickly as we want to so this allows someone to have knowledge of their positive lab and have them isolate,” said Raman.
Raman said she is concerned about the dramatic rise in cases. She encourages the community to do their part with contact tracing.
“Answer our phone calls, answer our questions and comply with the isolation orders or quarantine that we’re giving you. This is how we stop the spread.”