Answer your phone!

Like many of you, I usually let unfamiliar phone numbers go straight to voice mail.  But, these days we should all be a little more lenient on that – or at least check your voicemail frequently!  That’s because you never know when that phone call may be from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department contact tracers calling with COVID-19 information critical to your health.

For several months, a growing team of individuals armed with phones and phone numbers has been working with COVID-positive individuals to retrace their steps and compile a list of potentially infected friends, family members and co-workers.

You can imagine the sensitivity involved in reaching out to unsuspecting people to let them know they may have been exposed to the virus. However, these people are critical to slowing the virus and lessening its spread in our community.

In the last week, the contact tracing team of about 65 people reached out to more than 6,000 County residents to offer support and services, as well as encouragement to get tested and potentially quarantine.

I had the chance to visit them this week. It’s a challenging job – made more difficult by navigating three separate State Department of Health computer systems. I was impressed by the variety of people doing this work, from teachers to recent college graduates (from a public health program), and from twenty-somethings to retirees.  The one thing they all had in common – a desire to help our community get through this pandemic!

You can learn more about contact tracing and the people behind those phone calls in this video:

My thanks to Heather Moss and the entire Human Services team who literally moved all of their belongings out of the office workspace at 1305 Tacoma Avenue so that the contact tracing team could work in one facility.  I’m grateful for your selflessness and your willingness to turn on a dime to make it happen.  Your thoughtfulness and flexibility are not only saving the County about a half a million dollars but, more importantly, you are saving lives!

Thanks, also, to our IT team that made the switch as seamless as possible, our Facilities Team for their quick work, and Judy Archer in Human Resources who facilitated the training for Pierce County employees to become contact tracers.

We are seeing the number of COVD-19 cases steadily decline in Pierce County. Let’s all continue to do our part by masking, staying socially distant – and encouraging our friends and family to do the same!  We want to get our kids back into school and start to resume a life filled with live music, sports and gathering with those we love.