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Tracing the path of COVID-19 in El Paso County

Posted at 6:27 PM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 07:39:07-04

EL PASO COUNTY — Stopping something you cannot detect with any of your senses is tough. With COVID-19, there is detective work of sorts happening in El Paso County to cut it off.

The process of contact tracing is an important element of easing some COVID-19 restrictions in El Paso County.

"Each time we are getting a report of a case, we are contacting that person to find out where they have been in the past two weeks before the illness," said El Paso County Public Health Epidemiologist Kimberly Pattison. “To identify where they might have been infected, but also see where they might have been while they were infected. The path and patterns of someone who is infected helps identify many other people as possible at risk of getting the virus."

"Hopefully intervene with some targeted interventions before we have the virus spread," said El Paso County Public Health Medical Director Dr. Robin Johnson.

A plan to isolate and quarantine a small group can happen by quickly finding anyone who has been potentially exposed. It is part of the plan gradually taking over in place of the community wide stay-at-home order.

The early and aggressive measures were necessary because of COVID-19’s sudden and rapid spread in the community. The stay-at-home order, social distancing, and increased hygiene measures are credited with getting COVID-19 numbers to a more manageable status.

Improvement is not elimination. Data shows a significant number of infections still happening. "Let's us know the virus is still here,” Johnson said. She adds, it will be here for a long time.

A team of eight people were tracing infectious disease for El Paso County Public Health before COVID-19 showed up in the community. Staffing transfers, new hires, and volunteers now make up a team of dozens. Their goal is isolating infections early so community wide measures can continue to ease.