21 School Nurses Trained to be Contact Tracers for Montgomery County

21 school health nurses were trained Wednesday to provide contact tracing for COVID-19 patients in Montgomery County, Chief of Public Health Services Dr. Travis Gayles said at a virtual county council meeting Thursday. 

Contact tracing has been happening since COVID-19 first entered Montgomery County, Gayles said, but it became a bigger focus after Gov. Larry Hogan announced last week that ramping up tracing is a major factor in reopening Maryland. Early last week when the number of positive patients in the county was around 1,600, about 1,000 had been interviewed, Gayles said. The county followed a priority system to figure out who would get called right away. Nursing home cases, county employees, older people and those connected to large-scale exposure were among the priority groups. 

Before Hogan emphasized the importance of contact tracing, Montgomery County scaled it back because it had caught up on the age front, and scaled back to focus on making sure all patients over 50 received a call within 24 hours of the county learning about their diagnosis. Additional resources like new contact tracers let the county reach out to more people within the 24-hour time frame. Gayles said the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) works quickly to try to get to patients within a 48-hour window. 

During the meeting, Gayles displayed three pages of questions that patients are asked. Questions include where they live, who they’ve been in contact with and what pre-existing conditions they have.

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