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Local tracer qualifications outlined

Volunteers sought for team

The Blair County Emergency Management Department is hoping to entice people with interpersonal skills, computer ability and the discretion to maintain confidentiality for its proposed new coronavirus contact tracing team, to be comprised of volunteers, according to department Director Mark Taylor.

The department got a good start Thursday after a call for help went out, with 15 or 20 responses, Taylor said.

His intention is to create a “solid” group of 10 or 15 initially.

“We can always add to the pool” if necessary, he said.

Those interested should call 940-5900 or email cris

frederickson@atlanticbbn.net, Taylor said.

Upon receiving inquiries, the department will direct prospective members to register at https://serv.pa

.gov/, Taylor said.

A background check is required before anyone can be formally approved, he said.

His department will build a work schedule based on participants’ availability, Taylor said.

That might call for a few hours a day or maybe one full day a week, he said.

Tracers will call people who are identified by the state Department of Health as having tested positive for COVID-19 and ask them to identify anyone they were in close contact with during the time when they were likely contagious, Taylor indicated.

After learning the identities of those close contacts, the tracers will call them — without revealing the name of the infected individual, Taylor said.

The tracers will say, “You may have been exposed,” Taylor said.

They’ll also recommend that the people who were exposed keep track of symptoms and, if necessary, see their primary care doctors, Taylor said.

“And maybe stay away from their loved ones” — even if they remain asymptomatic, Taylor said.

The tracers will suggest that those who’ve been exposed sign up for Sara Alert, Taylor said.

That smart-phone app helps the Department of Health monitor the situation, according to Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

It checks in automatically with those who enroll, allowing both people who’ve tested positive and those who’ve been exposed to share their symptoms daily with public health agencies, according to a video on the Sara Alert website.

There will be some people who won’t want to be called by members of the new tracer team, Taylor said.

“A lot still think that (COVID-19) is some sort of myth,” he said. “They may say, ‘why are you calling me — it’s a waste of time.'”

Still, the tracers need to get the word out, and it will be incumbent on the skeptics to “take precautions for themselves, their family and anyone they are close to” — particularly people at high risk of getting sick, Taylor said.

Despite the expected non-cooperation of some members of the community, the tracing work isn’t likely to be overly stressful, Taylor said.

The tracers will need to go through a DoH training session, Taylor said.

His department will make the tracing assignments.

While there currently isn’t a DoH-affiliated Blair County nurse, the DoH is looking to hire one, along with a regional representative, Taylor said.

Those professionals would become involved in the tracing effort, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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