With confirmed cases in the US of COVID-19 surpassing the 2 million 600-thousand mark, and climbing daily, healthcare workers are increasingly concerned they will not be able to treat everyone safely—or at all.
They are also worried that regular citizens are not taking the necessary precautions anymore to slow spreading.
According to an NPR article, healthcare workers are receiving threats amid the public’s fears of contact tracing and case investigation.
The article explains that other public health workers have encountered resistance, online harassment, and even violent threats for conducting contact tracing and other containment strategies in their local communities.
State and local health officials say it’s a worrisome development as businesses reopen, and they try to build community trust for strategies that will help keep viral transmission in check.
Often times, the threats are of violence or property damage. Some health departments, like one in Aurora, Colorado, was severely vandalized.
According to the CDC, case investigation and contact tracing, a core disease control measure employed by local and state health department personnel for decades, is a key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19:
- In case investigation, public health staff work with a patient to help them recall everyone with whom they have had close contact during the timeframe while they may have been infectious.
- Public health staff then begin contact tracing by warning these exposed individuals (contacts) of their potential exposure as rapidly and sensitively as possible.
- To protect patient privacy, contacts are only informed that they may have been exposed to a patient with the infection. They are not told the identity of the patient who may have exposed them.
- Contacts are provided with education, information, and support to understand their risk, what they should do to separate themselves from others who are not exposed, monitor themselves for illness, and the possibility that they could spread the infection to others even if they themselves do not feel ill.
Identifying contacts and ensuring they do not interact with others is critical to protect communities from further spread. If communities are unable to effectively isolate patients and ensure contacts can separate themselves from others, rapid community spread of COVID-19 is likely to increase to the point that strict mitigation strategies will again be needed to contain the virus.