A few days after being tested for the novel coronavirus, you’ll be contacted by a public health professional who will tell you if you tested positive for COVID-19.
Usually within 24 hours, a professional from the health department will call you and conduct an interview in order to contact trace.
“We have a team of people who will have a conversation as far as: When their symptoms started, any travel history, what their living arrangements are like,” said Joseph Pepe, Administrator at the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County. “We try to build a timeline and recognize all of those people who may have come into close contact with them during their infectious period. We go down the line of all those individuals and their level of exposure.”
The public health professional will then notify the people you’ve had close contact with that they were potentially exposed to the virus. To protect your privacy, the professional will not disclose your name or any information about you.
“All different folks are putting info into the database with the Department of Health,” Pepe said. “As we see patterns, our epidemiology team — they’re like detectives — they’ll see this person was at the mall this day, and this person was at the mall this day. Whatever the commonality is, we link that together.”
When commonalities with cases are discovered, the DOH will work with establishments to appropriately handle the level of risk.
“We assess the risk to the public, see whether the person was working during that time frame and get their work schedules,” Pepe said. “We’ll get into whatever risk categories there are.”
The DOH also connects its clients to healthcare and monitors individuals throughout their illness.
“Certainly, one of the biggest pillars is to make sure there’s linkage to care,” Pepe said.
Anyone who’s tested positive or been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should voluntarily stay home and follow guidance from the DOH. But health departments do have the authority to issue a legal order of quarantine, if necessary.