The COVID-19 event has added new terms to everyday discussions, including the term “contact tracing.” Baker County Health Department Nursing Supervisor Alicia Hills heads case investigation and contact tracing for the county, and shares information about how it works.
The Baker County Health Department completes case investigation for any person who has been diagnosed with a reportable communicable disease, such as meningitis, tuberculosis and COVID-19. Test results are reported to the county even if the test is done outside of Oregon.
Contact tracing begins with Baker County Health Department contacting the person who has received a positive test result for an interview, usually by telephone. The interviewer asks for information about symptoms, people who may have been exposed to the disease, and other questions specific to the disease. The second step is for the Health Department to call the contacts who were identified and inform them they may have been exposed. During this call, information is provided about the disease and possible symptoms, if testing is needed, treatment options (for diseases where treatment is available), and how to limit spreading the disease to others.
Contact tracing is an effective tool to contain the spread of disease. If confirmed cases and their contacts isolate while they are contagious, it prevents the disease from spreading through the community.
Any confirmed cases and contacts who have been exposed to COVID-19 are directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate, with the length of time varying based on multiple factors. The Baker County Health Department works with contacts and their unique situations to establish when and if testing is needed.
The Health Department received a number of requests to release more information about the confirmed COVID-19 case last week, however, details about any individual cannot be released due to federal and state privacy laws. Public health departments are prohibited by law from sharing information that they obtain in the course of a public health investigation.
Case investigation and contact tracing will continue for each confirmed case throughout the duration of this event. If you are identified as someone who may have come in contact with an individual who tests positive, you will be contacted by the Health Department. Hills says please make sure your voicemail boxes are set up and check that they are not full so the contact tracing group can leave a message.
Today, Baker County hired a business liaison to assist business owners and customers through the reopening process. Jeff Nelson, who is also the Business Advisor at the Small Business Development Center, will be working to help businesses understand and implement the new guidance from the Oregon Health Authority as they prepare to reopen to the public, as well as customers with questions or concerns.
Nelson will be joining the Business Operations and Recovery group within the local Incident Command Team. He says, “I look forward to working with businesses through all these changes, I’m here to help. Feel free to contact me anytime.” Jeff Nelson can be contacted at 541-523-0015, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Resources for businesses are being added frequently to the County’s website, www.bakercountycovid19.com. Businesses with questions, or who may be struggling to find the personal protective equipment needed to meet OHA guidelines, are encouraged to get in contact.
Baker County’s Reopening Plan has not yet been approved by the Governor’s office. The County received notification on Friday that the Governor’s office had passed the plan on to Oregon Health Authority for review. County officials are optimistic the plan meets the state’s review criteria and Baker County will be approved to enter Phase 1 of the Reopening Oregon process soon. The Governor’s plan indicates some counties may start reopening as soon as May 15.
Baker County submitted an updated reopening plan to Governor Brown today that incorporated new guidance the Governor’s office released during a press conference held at 11:00 AM this morning. County officials do not yet know when the Governor will make a final decision on the plan, but are optimistic that Baker County is being considered to begin the first phase of reopening next week. The updated plan is available on the Baker County COVID-19 website, www.bakercountycovid19.com.
Once the plan is approved by the Governor, some sectors of businesses and other establishments that are currently closed will be allowed to reopen in phases, with precautions in place to reduce the risk of transmitting coronavirus. Baker County and Baker City staff will meet with businesses by sector next week to discuss the standards for reopening, and will remain available to assist businesses through the reopening process. Business owners are encouraged to join the email list by filling out the business survey at www.bakercountycovid19.com. Guidance for each sector will be updated on the website as it comes available.