The benefits of contact tracing cannot be understated. In addition to highly anticipated COVID-19 tests and vaccines, public health officials know that the end of the pandemic also depends on effective contact tracing efforts.
According to an analysis by the Lancet Infectious Diseases, contact tracing of COVID-19 patients in the early weeks of the outbreak reduced the time secondary cases were in the community by two days and reduced the volume of spread. The concept of contact tracing is simple enough: alert all parties who have come in contact with an infected individual to prevent them from spreading the disease further. However, contact tracing still requires a detailed plan and dedicated crew to enact.
As businesses continue to reopen and employees return to the office it’s their responsibility to oversee proper contact tracing efforts. Even if you develop a detailed reopening plan and implement additional safety precautions, employees can still bring their illness to work.
Employers should be taking an active role in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace by implementing an effective contact tracing program. Here’s what businesses can do to create a contact tracing program that prioritizes workplace health and safety, protects employee privacy, and gives you peace of mind.
How Contact Tracing Works for COVID-19
Contact tracing is not a new concept. It has been a critical disease control measure used by local and state health officials for decades against diseases like tuberculosis. Contact tracing has been shown to successfully control new outbreaks of diseases before they can spread.
With over 42 million confirmed global cases as of October 21, 2020, COVID-19 has shown its resistance in being controlled and minimized, especially in dense communities. Due to the threat of community spread, the CDC has cited contact tracing as a “key strategy” in their fight against COVID-19. Here are the effective contact tracing measures the CDC recommends.
- Act with haste—time is of the essence when slowing the spread of COVID-19!
- Identify everyone who may have come in contact with an infected individual.
- Notify contacts of potential exposure, evaluate their symptoms, and provide the next steps.
- Guide them towards proper resources, testing, and care.
- Continue to update your approach as more information becomes available.
Businesses need to take a thoughtful approach in developing their contact tracing program When reaching out to a potentially exposed employee, be supportive. During the conversation, inform them of their risk and encourage them to separate themselves from others, especially from their work setting. Be supportive and understanding.
Share as many details as you have about how they may have come in contact so they can assess their risk of getting sick. It helps to share the days and times that the individual was in the office and when they came down with symptoms. Be mindful to protect their confidentiality. This can easily be achieved using a visitor management system and reviewing all sign in records.
Most importantly, continue updating your contract tracing plan as more information becomes available.
Benefits of Contact Tracing
Contact tracing has shown to be effective in slowing the progression of an outbreak, especially when deployed early on. In the Lancet study mentioned above, they sought to understand the impact of contact tracing at different stages after initial symptoms began.
In ideal scenarios with full tracing coverage, immediately informing an individual of their potential exposure, and proper physical distancing after exposure, contained the virus spread. Normal models predict that an individual can unknowingly infect 1-2 people before their symptoms manifest—if they have symptoms at all. Since an estimated 40% of transmissions occur before symptom onset, giving people advance notice of exposure reduces their spread from 1-2 people to 0-0.8 people on average.
Even when tracing coverage is reduced to 80%, which is more realistic, contact tracing still maintains an average spread rate under 1 person. Tracing effectiveness is reduced with testing delays or an inability to immediately get in contact with an individual. In these situations, contact tracing remains beneficial, but the results are less effective the longer action is delayed after the initial exposure.
In addition to minimizing the risk of spread, contact tracing communicates that your business is concerned with the wellbeing of your workplace, staff, and visitors.
How Technology Empowers Contact Tracing
Contact tracing is a must-have for businesses, but manual tracing procedures can be inefficient and even risky to your workplace. To ensure your contact tracing efforts run smoothly in line with your health and safety requirements for COVID-19, consider a digital visitor management system.
SwipedOn’s contactless sign in, for example, replaces in-person interactions with a touch-free method for registering employees and guests into your workplace. As visitors enter your space, simply scan a QR code on their smartphone to sign in.
You can further protect your business from risks by asking screening questions when visitors and employees sign in. Use customized yes/no questions to verify their health status or determine if they’ve been in contact with an infected individual. Once the screening process is completed, employees can receive an alert via SMS or email with their essential data and associated timestamps.
The entire process is virtual, which minimizes face-to-face contact and enforces healthy distancing. App-based tracing is more effective in reducing spread than conventional tracing alone and leaves your business with sign in records should the need arise to carry out contact tracing.
Digitizing contact tracing can extend beyond just visitors. With the SwipedOn Pocket App, businesses can leverage a digital employee in out board with real-time reporting. As with visitor management, the app provides a contactless sign-in experience for employees.
Employees can download the app on their Android or iPhone, fill out a quick authentication, and they’re ready to go. When arriving at the office, employees simply open the app, swipe the arrow, and they’re done.
Employers can easily monitor everything from the SwipedOn dashboard. Sign in records for employees and visitors are stored and accessed with date, name, and time-stamping.
Contact tracing requires collecting a lot of data, which comes with privacy concerns. Be mindful of employee and visitor privacy when conducting contact tracing. Employees and visitors want to know how their personal information and health data are being accessed and used. Businesses must be careful to follow HIPPA and local privacy laws.
Ask for permission to trace and notify contacts when an employee becomes ill in the workplace. Have a contact tracing policy in place and be prepared to share it so employees can review it if they choose.
Digital visitor management systems can add an extra layer of security for employee and guest data. Cloud-based applications allow you to securely store data digitally and access records immediately. Additionally, SwipedOn lets you generate digital forms and agreements that employees and visitors can sign during the sign-in process to ensure they understand and agree to your terms.
The Importance of Contact Tracing
Contact tracing is having a direct impact on the spread of COVID-19. Studies continue to show that contact tracing programs and digital solutions can successfully slow the spread.
Businesses must understand the importance of gathering sign in records and the benefits this can have in creating a safe and healthy workspace. A dedicated visitor management system is also vital in reinforcing your contact tracing efforts through the use of contactless sign in, screening questions, and employee in out boards.