As Otter Tail County’s COVID-19 case count continues to climb, with 305 confirmed cases including 49 contagious cases, it’s the job of Otter Tail County Public Health and the Minnesota Department of Health to complete case investigation and contact tracing for Otter Tail County (OTC) residents.
“We have a team of public health nurses who do this work seven days a week,” says public health director for OTC, Jody Lien. They receive notification of positive cases either from health care partner referrals or from the Minnesota Department of Health. One of the nurses from OTC Public Health then calls the person who tested positive for COVID-19 to ask about their symptoms, how they may have been infected and who they may have been in contact with during their infectious period. They also remind patients about isolation and quarantine and provide them with additional education on the virus and best practices. It’s up to the patient to provide that information to the people they live with.
As for contact tracing, Lien says, “Persons are also asked about the people they spent time close to, sometimes called ‘close contacts,’ starting two days before they were tested or when they started feeling sick. Our nurses will reach out to those close contacts, which may include worksites. A person’s name is only shared when we have their consent to do so.”
In some cases, such as when the case is in a long-term care center, health care facility or other congregate site, the Minnesota Department of Health takes the lead.
Data privacy is of utmost importance. Each person is read a privacy notice that informs them what type of information they’ll be asked for and how it will be used, and they have the right to refuse to give some or all of the information.