Contact tracing is a pillar of public health, and when done quickly — and correctly — it saves lives.
Yale students who might have otherwise learned 关于 this classic public health intervention in textbooks or lectures, are actively engaged in it, working the phones each day to assist the city of New Haven and the Yale community in the struggle against a deadly pandemic that has claimed 更多 than 2,700 lives in Connecticut alone, making it one of the hardest hit states in the country.
Directed by Yale School of Public Health Professor Linda Niccolai and Tyler Shelby, an M.D./Ph.D. student, Yale’s 联系 tracing program launched within days after the virus arrived in Connecticut. Students from across the Yale schools of public health, medicine and nursing responded to the call for volunteers and have been working ever since.
联系 tracing is public health 101 and it is helping to “flatten the curve” and slow the rate of new infections.
“We have interviewed hundreds of people with COVID-19 and notified hundreds and hundreds of their 联系s,” Niccolai said. “There is no telling how many lives have been saved due to the commitment and the efforts of our volunteers.”
Emily Peterson, an M.P.H. student, stepped forward because she wanted to offer the skills and knowledge that she learned in her academic training at the Yale School of Public Health.
“In a sense, 联系 tracing is the investigative and mystery-solving side of public health,” Peterson said. “By piecing together the ‘puzzle’ of a disease’s sp阅读, we, as public health practitioners, can figure out how a disease [started] and affected a community.”
联系 tracing is labor-intensive and often emotionally draining. It requires phones calls (lots of them), strong interviewing skills, diplomacy and the ability to ask the right questions. Volunteers also need to stay abreast of the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 关于 symptoms and recommendations to self-isolate.
It is difficult, repetitive and often tense work that involves talking with a stranger 关于 a deadly disease. But it is also essential to slowing and eventually stopping the disease.
During 联系 tracing, a running list is developed of all the people a sick person had 联系 with in the days before their condition was diagnosed. Volunteers then start calling all of the people on this list, one at a time. Sometimes there are just a few people to 联系. Other times there are dozens. Some of the people at the other end of the line are helpful and grateful for the 资讯rmation. Others—not so much.
The students have the delicate responsibility of 资讯rming the person that they are speaking with that they might be at heightened risk for COVID-19 because of their recent 联系 with a sick person. They then ask if the individual is displaying symptoms and, if so, what people they have come into 联系 with recently. Importantly, the 联系ed individuals are then provided guidance to self-isolate for 14 days to prevent transmission to others in case they have been infected.
A call, which can last upward of 30 minutes and often involves a range of intense emotions, ends with a list of recommended steps to take if the person is beginning to feel ill.
It’s by tracing the contacts of infected individuals, testing them for infection if they have symptoms, and then linking them to medical care if needed that public health aims to reduce infections in the general population. The technique has been widely used for other diseases such as tuberculosis, measles and HIV.
Given how transmissible the novel coronavirus is, Niccolai and her 团队 realized early on that there were going to be too many cases and too many 联系s for local health departments to do proper 联系 tracing and notification. The Yale network now has well over 200 volunteers working on behalf of the city and the university. They have been at it for 更多 than eight weeks, and there is no end in sight, Niccolai said.
Other municipalities in Connecticut and beyond are turning to 联系 tracing as they grapple with stemming the sp阅读 of the disease within their own jurisdictions. Some of them have turned to the Yale model and reached out for advice on how to implement something similar, Niccolai said.
Another Yale School of Public Health student volunteer, Tyler Caruthers, was drawn to volunteer out of a desire to help others. She couldn’t bear passively sheltering at 主页 while the New Haven community remained at risk.
“Volunteering for 联系 tracing is a small way to help out the community, even if it is from my living room in Florida,” she said. “This effort is not unique to Yale. People from across sectors, including the city of New Haven and the state of Connecticut, have joined forces to help stunt the sp阅读 of the virus.”
Yale School of Public Health student Samantha Stone contributed to this story.