03-27-20 Weld County: Call by Call, Epidemiologists Tackle COVID-19

Weld County: Call by Call, Epidemiologists Tackle COVID-19

Bert Plants, epidemiologist for Weld County’s Department of Public Health and Environment, working on COVID-19 investigations

Weld County – Typically, an epidemiologist working for the Weld County Health Department focuses on analyzing health data looking for trends and monitoring influxes in diseases such as rhinovirus and salmonella. But for the past three weeks, they have been knee-deep in COVID-19 investigations.

Seven days a week, the department’s three epidemiologists, and one retired doctor donating his time, have been working around the clock conducting investigations and helping in the fight against COVID-19. To date, their efforts have resulted in the investigation of more than 127 cases in Weld County.

“Investigating a case is intense and time-consuming,” said Dr. Wallace, Director of the WCDPHE. “Our staff has been, and continues to be, very responsive to this pandemic. We’ve made over 1,000 phone contacts investigating Weld County cases.”

The process of investigating a positive COVID-19 case starts with information provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) or a private health care provider. After epidemiologists are made aware of positive or potential positive COVID-19 individuals, they contact the individual and the individual’s health care provider to learn more about the severity of the illness and symptoms. Positive COVID-19 individuals are instructed to self-isolate, meaning stay at home and away from other people, including household members who don’t have symptoms.

Then, the real work begins as the epidemiologists conduct a Contact Investigation on that person. This part of the investigation entails reaching out to anyone who has had potential exposure to the virus via the individual who tested positive within the past two to 14 days to see if they’re having symptoms. If the contacts don’t have symptoms, they are monitored to see if symptoms develop. Monitoring activities include check-in calls, taking temperatures twice daily, and recording symptoms, if any.

If someone works with high-risk populations, the work facility is contacted, and the epidemiologists notify the facility of a potential COVID-19 exposure. The facility will begin their own investigation at this point. Often, this investigation is in coordination with the Health Department’s.

Working with the health care providers of people who test positive, the epidemiologists determine when to release the case from isolation once that case is considered recovered per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.  Beyond the work of the epidemiologists, the Health Department has a team of nurses, communication staff, data specialists, and other team members focused on this emergency response. They communicate and coordinate with the Weld County Office of Emergency Management, health care providers, the State Health Department, the media, and a variety of municipal and community partners.

“I want to thank our epidemiologists, my entire staff at the health department, and all the health care professionals in clinics and hospitals for working together as we continue to do the vital work needed to combat COVID-19” said Wallace.

For more information:

For general questions about COVID-19 in Colorado, call the State of Colorado CO HELP line at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 or email at COHELP@RMPDC.org. For factsheets and more, including a daily update of current COVID-19 positive cases in Weld County, visit: www.weldhealth.org. The Health Department updates its COVID-19 positive cases daily by 5:00 PM.

Eric Aakko, MS MCHES

Division Director

Health Education, Communication, and Planning

Department of Public Health and Environment

1555 North 17th Ave, Greeley, Colorado

970.400.2380

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Submitted to the BARN by:

Jennifer Finch

Weld County Communications Director

1150 O St. / PO Box 758 / Greeley, CO 80632-0758

D: 970-336-7203 / C: 970-302-1936 / F: 970-336-7233

GOVERNMENT WEB / FACEBOOK / TWITTER / YOUTUBE

DISCOVER WELD WEB / FACEBOOK / TWITTER /  PINTEREST