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September 18, 2021 9:22 AM

Close Contacts of Known Positives Increase

(September 18, 2021) – San Miguel County Public Health continues to use contact tracing information to better understand transmission of COVID-19 throughout the county through tactics such as contact tracing.

A close contact is defined as someone exposed to a person who tests positive for COVID-19 during their infectious period Public Health has seen an increase in the number of close contacts amongst both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals over the summer as people resume typical activities like in-person school and work, gatherings, and travel. Public Health encourages residents and visitors alike to think about the number of potential exposures they may have when considering day-to-day activities.

“Our contact tracing team is working around the clock again documenting record numbers of close contacts that have to be informed of their exposure,” said Contact Tracing Supervisor Amanda Baltzley. “We have to remember that the pandemic is still far from over. There is work to be done and we must avoid unnecessary transmission, especially when thinking about family, friends and neighbors who are at-risk. Contact tracing is one of the many things Public Health is doing to curb preventable spread.”

When looking at how the virus spread, Public Health tracks transmission through types of exposure. The five exposure categories tracked by contact tracers include:

• Social - when spending time with people outside one’s household, whether indoors or out, such as a party or gathering.
• Workplace - when exposed by a colleague, client, or guest while at work, whether in an office, restaurant, hotel, or otherwise.
• Travel - while traveling for vacation, a family gathering, event or otherwise.
• Household - exposed by one’s housemates whether roommates, children, parents, or guardians.
• Community - when the exposure or point of contact is unknown.

Social, workplace and travel exposures are the easiest to personally control. Paying attention to distancing, mask use, and good hand hygiene are great ways to mitigate risks when engaging in these activities. Increased household spread has occurred with the introduction of the Delta variant. Limiting the number of people an infected person could expose is one of the most effective ways to reduce transmission.

“Since getting vaccinated, I’ve resumed more indoor activities with friends than I did throughout the pandemic. Having dinner, traveling, or game nights with a larger social circle has been critical for my mental health and need for connection,” said Public Health Director Grace Franklin. “However, as the Delta variant has taken a foothold in the county, I’ve become more mindful of how many people I have close interactions with. Where possible, I try to keep activities outside, reschedule if someone’s not feeling well, and try to limit larger group activities weekly. Risk accumulates and I try to think of what impact I would make on other people’s lives if I was infected at one event before another event or work meeting. After a larger social outing, I work harder to distance myself and take other necessary precautions to minimize exposures to coworkers, friends, and neighbors. For example, I take meetings virtually or reformat my workspace to minimize contact.”

In most cases, including higher risk exposures, fully vaccinated individuals who are close contacts do not have to quarantine as immunity limits the likelihood of infection. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies show that vaccinated people are eight times less likely to be infected and 25 times less likely to experience hospitalization or death. Vaccines remain effective in protecting most people from COVID-19 infection and its complications.

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