TOMS RIVER – The County Health Department and Ocean County College have partnered to create an institute to trace the path of the virus to prevent more people from getting sick.
“The OCHD COVID-19 response efforts continue to evolve as the pandemic itself is consistently evolving. We felt the institute was an important piece to serve the community by putting more personnel on our tracing task force to work cases with timely investigations that will ultimately mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and hopefully save lives as we move forward,” explained Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer.
The Ocean County Public Health COVID-19 Disease Investigation/Contact Tracing Institute will recruit, train and develop competencies in disease investigation to trace and monitor contacts of infected people with the COVID-19 virus and to help ensure the safe, sustainable and effective quarantine of these individuals to prevent further disease transmission.
“You need to think of this as a continuum,” explained Jennifer Crawford, Supervising Field Rep Disease Control and the Senior Epidemiologist in the Communicable Disease unit. “As you test more residents, you identify more positives. The goal is to interview each of these newly diagnosed COVID positive residents. This interview identifies ‘contacts’ of newly identified individuals which will need to be quarantined for the duration of the incubation period in order prevent further spread of the virus and most importantly protect those most vulnerable. This process requires extensive resources, and the Ocean County Health Department has built this Disease Investigator/Contact Tracer Institute to build this capacity and meet this challenge.”
A disease investigator will be someone working for the Health Department who will be the first point of contact with a patient who has just tested positive for the coronavirus. They will interview the patient over the phone, officials said. They will learn more about the symptoms to mitigate transmission to others.
A contact tracer will interview people with COVID-19 (or other contagious diseases) to figure out who they might have been in contact with. The other people would be encouraged to quarantine to prevent spreading to anyone else.
“It’s another important piece to get a better grasp of the pandemic,” added Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health. “We’re pleased Ocean County College is partnering with us in this endeavor by providing much-needed space and technical resources.”
“As the State continues to loosen restrictions and the public health community responds to rapidly changing local circumstances, it’s going to be important we have all the assets we can in learning more about the movement of this disease as we look ahead,” adds Regenye.
For more information about COVID-19, visit ochd.org or call the hotline at 732-341-9700 ext. 7411.