COVID-19 Contact Tracing

COVID-19 Contact Tracing | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Whether you have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, it’s important that you isolate and avoid going out in public. That means no going to work, school, or shopping if you’re sick. If you do happen to have a confirmed case of COVID-19, part of the job of our public health officials is to immediately notify anyone you may have encountered during the time in which you were infectious. This means any stores or restaurants you went to, you co-workers, and any friends you might have spent time with, as all of these people will need to isolate and monitor themselves for any potential symptoms of COVID-19 no matter how minor. Furthermore, individuals in your household (such as a parent, sibling, spouse, or child) is also at an increased risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, too, as they are in direct contact with you on a much more frequent basis and will also need to monitor for symptoms and isolate.

When public health works to notify those you have come into contact with, this is called “contact tracing.” The following are the primary goals of contact tracing:

• Quickly identify new cases of COVID-19
• Assess the severity of the virus in each individual
• Support and manage those who have been exposed to COVID-19
• Prevent ongoing transmission of the virus to other close contacts/within communities

As part of Canada’s contact tracing efforts, the Federal government also recently announced and made available for download a contact tracing app called COVID Alert, which will notify you of any potential exposure to the virus. However, it’s not yet ready for use in all provinces. Here in British Columbia, if you do happen to be a contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, then a member from public health will contact you to let you know of the exposure and ask you a series of questions, such as whether or not you are symptomatic. If you’re not experiencing symptoms of the virus, you’ll be asked to self-isolate (as it’s still possible to have the virus, even if you are asymptomatic.) If you do have symptoms, you will be sent for testing and will also need to self-isolate once your test has been completed.

If you are a contact of someone with COVID-19, as mentioned previously you should stay home and avoid public areas, work, school, as well as avoid use of public transportation (such as buses, taxis, and other ride-share services.) You should also wash your hands regularly, and clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces. If you happen to need groceries or medication, try asking a friend or relative if they can pick up these necessities for you and drop them off at your front door (you should avoid direct contact.) As an alternative, you may also be able to order your groceries and medications online and have them delivered to you.

As you self-isolate, it’s important that you continually monitor yourself for symptoms as well as take and record your temperature on a daily basis. The average normal body temperature is typically around 37°C, though for some individuals it may be slightly lower. If your temperature exceeds this, you could potentially have COVID-19. It’s also important that, when taking your temperature, you avoid the use of fever-reducing medications as much as possible, as this can change your temperature reading. After 14 days, if you have not developed any symptoms of the virus, then your self-isolation can end. You can find a full list of symptoms to watch for by clicking here. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you will be required to self-isolate until at least 10 days have passed since the start of your symptoms, and your fever is gone (and you don’t require the use of fever-reducing medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.)