By Cpt. Brad Herkimer
The ongoing mission of the Utah National Guard Contact Tracing and Investigation Team is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through morbidity investigations, and methodical contact tracing within 24 hours of a positive test. The team has two primary objectives: First, is to educate and inform people who have tested positive for COVID-19 on the proper precautions they should take. Secondly, to stop the spread by identifying, contacting, and educating those who came into contact with a morbidity (COVID-19 Positive) case.
The Contact Tracing and Investigations effort of the COVID-19 Task Force is comprised of 109 Utah National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from all over the state of Utah. These Soldiers and Airmen have partnered with seven local county health departments to include: Bear River, Davis, Utah County, San Juan, South-West, Wasatch, and Weber-Morgan. Additionally, the National Guard Contact Tracing Team partners with the Utah Department of Health for worksite investigations, and contact tracing overflow from other county health departments
National Guard Contact Investigators work remotely from their own homes. They call people who have tested positive and conduct investigations into the symptoms and circumstances of each case. Further, they identify everyone that a person recently diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in contact with since they became contagious. Cases are assigned by each of the county health departments to Soldiers and Airmen aligned to that county.
Currently the team averages working on around 10 cases per Soldier or Airmen. Calls and investigations generally take 30-60 minutes per call depending on complexity and questions the patient may have. Since the end of August, the Contact Tracing and Investigations Team have conducted more than 36,400 investigations.
“UTNG (Utah National Guard) has provided an essential heavy lift during the COVID pandemic. Soldiers have been ready and willing to take on investigations and provided necessary education and follow-up to individuals impacted by the pandemic. The past nine months have been filled with uncertainty and stress. It has been nice to have UTNG be a consistent and positive force through these trying times,” said Jesse K. Bush, the director of the Division of Health Promotion in the Weber-Morgan Health Department.
Anyone who comes into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 is at increased risk of becoming infected themselves, and of potentially infecting others. Contact tracing helps prevent further transmission of the virus by quickly identifying and informing people who may be infected and contagious, so they can take steps to not infect others. Additionally, morbidity investigations help inform and educate those who have tested positive in how to effectively isolate to prevent transmission to others.
Our civilian partners at the Utah Department of Health and at local county health departments are working tirelessly to protect our local communities. The Utah National Guard is honored to assist our civilian partners in stopping the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing and investigations.
CPT Brad Herkimer
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