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Health department officials investigating spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing

Once the VDH knows who the person has had close contact with, they contact each of those people...
Once the VDH knows who the person has had close contact with, they contact each of those people and alert them that they may have the coronavirus. | Credit: WHSV(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 31, 2020 at 6:42 PM EDT
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As cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in the Shenandoah Valley, the Virginia Department of Health is working to find out how the virus may have been spread.

That's completed through a process called contact tracing. The Virginia Department of Health reaches out to the person who tested positive for the coronavirus to find out who they may have come into close contact with. The CDC defines close contact as "being within approximately six feet of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time."

Once the VDH knows who the person has had close contact with, they contact each of those people and alert them that they may have contracted the coronavirus. They also make health recommendations, like self-quarantining for 14 days.

"At this point, we're doing active monitoring both of our cases and our contacts, so we touch base with them once a day, see how they're doing," Dr. Laura Kornegay, health director for the Central Shenandoah Health District, said.

She added this type of tracing and monitoring may have to stop if the cases continue to spread, even though she said it's helpful.

"It's very time consuming, but by the same token, we feel its really important from a public health perspective," Dr. Kornegay said.

Additionally, once the disease spreads too widely, it may be impossible to tell who it spread from, which is why social distancing is so important.

"That's basically what we would call community transmission, is that you have cases that have not yet been identified, out in the community," Dr. Kornegay said.

In order to help prevent community transmission from happening, Dr. Kornegay said people should obey

, wash their hands frequently, and avoid touching their face.