You may have heard the terms “Contact tracing” or “contact listing” in reference to tracking and responding to COVID-19 cases and outbreaks. While these terms are important for pandemic safety, they may be unclear for many. Close contact “tracing” is one of the primary tools we have at our disposal to get ahead of the infection curve. Contact tracing attempts to identify as many people who have potentially been exposed to the virus as possible, by “tracing” those who an infected person came into contact with.
Contact listing is the closest method we have to accomplishing a list of people who may have been exposed. Currently, rely on someone’s memory to determine who they may have come into contact with. Using rosters and the data collected with a technology solution, we can create a list of everyone in the same classes as the infected person for a given time period (48 hours prior to the knowledge of the positive case). That information can then be used to help the schools and health officials determine a starting point to make decisions on who should be notified of a potential exposure and/or the need to quarantine.
The hope is that everyone would know what their health status is before they came to school and there would not be any exposure at the school. However, the reality is that we are going to have an exposure at some point.
We are either going to get notified of a possible exposure after the fact, or someone is going to come to school (appearing to be healthy) and start presenting symptoms while they are at school. Once a school is notified of a possible exposure, the school would use technology like the Contact Listing tool within CrisisGo’s Safety iPass to create a “roster” of every class the person who caused the exposure had attended during the past few days. This would generate a listing of everyone who was also in that class during that same time period. This list, while is not technically a tracing tool, does allow the schools and the health officials to have a solid starting point to determine who might need to be notified and/or be contacted for further investigation. This is likely the best tool available to schools and health officials to conduct their contact tracing requirements.
So why is close contact tracing helpful and important? Ultimately, understanding who an infected person came into contact with is the key to containing the spread of any virus, or contagion. The primary obstacle to accomplishing this is the inability to map who someone came into contact with.
Currently, the best method of doing this is through an investigation that starts with the infected person (subject). However, there are many limiting factors here: human memory is faulty, and it only extends to the people which are known to that subject, and the primary, location(s) where they visited; the subject may be too sick to be interviewed; the subject may have traveled to an area where they were infected, infected others; willingness to be truthful (some people are in places or are doing things they don’t want others to know about); and the subject may underestimate who they came into contact with and/or self-evaluate the need to report potential exposures.
Having a system which gives key stakeholders the best opportunity to begin their investigation is essential. The way our schools contribute to the reduction of the spread of the virus is to provide those key stakeholders with the data they need to make informed decisions.
If your school is looking for a tool or system to assist with contact listing, CrisisGo’s Safety iPass has a built-in close contact listing tool to immediately identify students and staff who have been in close contact with a student that has tested positive. Take a look at how Safety iPass can help your district manage pandemic safety.