Tracking a virus: Contact tracing to slow the spread of COVID-19
When someone tests positive for COVID-19, it is vital to track down everyone that person may have passed the virus to.
That practice is called contact tracing, and it is being expanded in Michigan with thousands of volunteers, according to an article on MLive.
But how does contact tracing work? There are different ways of doing it.
Some countries, such as South Korea, use cell phone data to track infected people’s activities prior to being tested. This allows them to accurately connect the dots between individuals and warn those who may have been exposed.
However, it also raises concerns about privacy, which is why it is not a technique used in countries like the U.S.
Another method of contact tracing is a little more difficult, but also can yield accurate results: just ask an infected person who they’ve had contact with. That’s according to a review of Michigan contact tracing efforts in Bridge Magazine.
The next step involves reaching out to each of those people to request they quarantine for 14 days. Health departments will also keep in touch with each person to track their symptoms, potentially identifying an outbreak before it gets out of control.
The whole effort will allow the state to loosen up stay-at-home orders.
“You’re limiting your restrictions to those who are infected, so you’re not having to lock down the whole population,” said Josh Petrie, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
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