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Our investigators pick up the phone and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Viral Hepatitis Coordinator Kim Desmarais
by Kim Steele-Peter06/04/2020 3:11 p.m.
Updated: 06/25/2020

Think back to a simpler time. Imagine you’ve had a productive day out of the house, only to return home and realize you lost your wallet.

What do you do?

First, you mentally retrace your steps. Next, you call each place you visited.

With any luck, you’ve solved a big problem with a few phone calls. 

We know from experience the same strategy works for much bigger challenges—like controlling the spread of diseases like COVID-19.

Our track record with contact tracing.

Remember last year’s measles outbreak? Just over a year ago, we learned 2 Pierce County residents were ill with measles.

Our staff got right to work on a process called contact tracing. 

First, we called both residents and asked them to isolate at home until they were better. 

Then, we asked them to tell us about each time they were in contact with others while they were contagious. 

Finally, we talked to each person they had close contact with. We asked those people to get tested, quarantine at home, and let us know if they contracted measles so we could start the process over if needed.

A woman works at her desk

Contact tracing is one of our most effective public health strategies. Thanks to that quick work, 2 cases didn’t become 20 cases—or 200.

Our contact tracers—or disease investigators—help prevent the spread of measles, pertussis, tuberculosis and other diseases in our community. We have a strong track record of this work and a knack for building relationships with people. They trust our guidance—and follow it—when we need them to take steps that keep others from getting sick.

Our best tools to return closer to normal.

Gov. Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order achieved several things. One was to keep our hospitals from exceeding capacity. Another was to allow us time to build a case investigation and contact tracing team. You can apply to join the team as a contract employee or volunteer. 

We need that team in place to begin reopening Pierce County businesses. We’ve already moved some of our staff members from their regular jobs. Sixty people received training. We plan to train up to 200 people. Some will contact people directly, others will enter or analyze data, deliver samples to the lab, and provide other types of support. Some will be trained for a job but won’t be called to work unless needed.

We know from past pandemics to expect waves of infection until vaccines and treatments are developed. When those waves hit, strategies such as enhanced testing and contact tracing will help us make them smaller. 

But will the waves be small ripples or a tsunami? Your actions will make the difference. 

As we prepare to move to Phase 2, we need to record more tests per day and lower our percentage of positive test results. So, if you see an opportunity to test, please do it. Kroger corporation is offering testing next week, healthcare providers already offer testing, or your employer may offer testing through a healthcare provider in the future. 

Regardless of what phase we’re in, or what phase a neighboring county may be in, remember your actions affect more than just you. You may unwittingly take or bring back COVID-19 with you if you:

  • Gather with people you don’t normally see.
  • Neglect to wear a mask when you can’t safely stay 6 feet away from others.
  • Travel to another area to shop, eat or get a haircut. 

Your decision may result in illness for you, a family member or friend, or someone you don’t even know. 

Working together to stay healthy.

Disease investigation is an important part of our work. We need you to continue to do yours:

We’ll keep making our phone calls. You keep making smart decisions. Together, we’ll get through this.

Gov. Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order achieved several things. One was to keep our hospitals from exceeding capacity. Another was to allow us time to build a case investigation and contact tracing team. You can apply to join the team as a contract employee or volunteer. 

For more information about COVID-19, visit tpchd.org/coronavirus.

  1. Updated: 06/25/2020
  2. Updated: 06/23/2020
Viral Hepatitis Coordinator Kim Desmarais

by Kim Steele-Peter

Kim leads our efforts to identify and follow up on hepatitis activity in our communities.

 

We invite your comments but will delete those with profanity, personal attacks, derogatory statements, ads or promotional material. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department does not provide personal medical advice; please contact your health care provider.