The day in the life of a contact tracer: a ‘new experience’

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Contact tracing is an important job for the Lubbock Health Department to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keeping track of the virus. Contact tracing is a standard position within the health department, but in a normal year, only three are usually on duty. Now, there are more than 25.

Two weeks ago, the Lubbock Health Department opened a call center at the Lubbock Fire Rescue administration building. Staff begin their day with a briefing, then make calls for the rest of the day.

Most of the contact tracers are city employees, but Lubbock Fire Rescue and Lubbock Police Department staff are also helping out. Fireman Justin Smith said the job can be stressful.

“I’ve always known from day to day at the fire stations, we see it all the time so we… it’s just a little different perspective of it. You see a different side of it which is very interesting so seeing both sides it kind of put pieces together,” Smith said.

Staff said they make more than 300 calls in a day.

“It’s definitely different than my normal day to day job,” Smith said. “It’s actually been really good. Everybody’s been very receptive, very informative even for a lot of us that are in here just new information and trying to get people almost a new experience for everybody.”

Madeline Geeslin, health promotion supervisor, said callers are not only seeking information, they’re also checking up on patients.

“They also are calling people to check up on them and make sure that they’re progressing and that they’re feeling better and to answer any questions that they might have,” Geeslin said.

Director of Public Health for the City of Lubbock, Katherine Wells, said the training for contact tracing has changed. They have created a system that allows people to train faster. Still, they’re met with some challenges.

“It gets stressful over time so we try to make sure people take breaks bring in time where people can chat and have time where people can step away from the phone,” Wells said

One significant obstacle is when phone calls go unanswered.

“It’s important that we get that information because if we don’t get it then we can’t figure out where the virus is spreading and if we can’t figure that out, then we can’t take measures to stop the spread,” Wells said.

The Lubbock Health Department is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

For more information, go to the Lubbock Health Department’s website.

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